Passengers are forced to stand close together on crowded Northern Trains service
Passengers were left furious when a train that was so crowded that many were forced to stand close to each other unable to socially distance – only to see a whole area of seats marked as ‘reserved for staff’ but all empty.
The Northern Trains service on July 9 from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, to Manchester Airport was so crowded that even elderly passengers were forced to stand.
But when they tried to use the empty seats a conductor told them to get out and stand again – and if they didn’t like it to get off the train.
Jill Bewsher-Mastroianni, 46, an ex-pat Brit who lives with her husband and son in Chicago but is in the UK visiting her parents and friends boarded at Grange-over-Sands and was immediately shocked by how crowded the train was.
Passengers onboard the Northern Trains service from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, to Manchester Airport described how the train became so crowded that they were forced to stand
Jill, who was on her way to see friends in Stratford-Upon-Avon told Mail Online: ‘In times of Covid it was not safe at all. There was no room to distance and it was quite concerning. But then we saw a whole area of empty seats.’
Pictures the school administrator took show a sign designating the seats not for use. It read: ‘This part of the train is out of use to allow the conductor to carry out their duties. Thank you.’
Jill went on: ‘I decided to lead a bit of a revolt so I encouraged a few of the others who were around me to go and sit in the empty seats as it seemed ludicrous that we were in discomfort for no reason.
‘But we had barely sat down when the conductor came along and insisted we weren’t allowed to use them. He did let us leave our bags there. But he made us all go back to standing. It was ridiculous. And then he just stood in there on his own.’
She added: ‘I can’t believe someone could be so unhelpful.
A sign inside the train showed a section of the carriage was out of use to allow the conductor to carry out their duties
When those onboard the train tried to use the empty seats a conductor told them to get out and stand again
‘We were even told that if we were uncomfortable with being so close to other passengers we should get off at the next stop. When I asked him why most of the carriage was maskless he replied it wasn’t his job to police passengers. He refused to let us sit down and we were forced to stand cheek to cheek with other passengers.
‘It’s shocking and disgusting given the rising COVID cases.’
A spokesman for Northern Trains said: ‘On behalf of Northern I certainly apologise to anyone who needed to stand for their journey.
‘Regarding this case, I can report that, following discussions with our conductors, a new way of working has been introduced, which means entire carriages will no longer be cordoned-off.
‘There may be circumstances in which the conductor will close a small section of one carriage to allow them to access the door controls, but customers should no longer have to experience the conditions where large areas of the train are out of use.
‘Nonetheless I will pass the report on to the relevant people in the Region, in order for them to investigate and if necessary take action. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.’
Chris Jackson, Regional Director at Northern, said: ‘I am extremely sorry that some of our customers experienced difficult travelling conditions on Friday. ‘Like many industries, we continue to feel the impact of coronavirus and measures are still in place at our trains and stations to keep our customers and staff as safe as possible while travelling. ‘From time to time, this may mean small sections of a carriages are blocked to allow our staff to carry out their duties. No carriage should be fully cordoned off however, and we are currently looking into what happened on this journey.’
Chris added: ‘We are working hard to give our customers the confidence to return to the railway and have an enhanced cleaning plan in place, with more than 600 dedicated staff, focussing on touch points, toilets and removal of litter.’We’re also reminding all our customers that, unless they have specific exemptions, they should, for the moment continue to wear a face covering on our trains and at our stations.’