Critique wrote:Quick question: Why is Northern Rail so awful? I have probably only traveled with them a handful of times but I'm fairly sure one of the trains I was on recently was some sort of converted bus - it had bus bench seats and it was incredibly low quality. The connecting East Coast train, in comparison, was lovely.
You're comparing an InterCity operation with a Regional operation. It's not unlike comparing a coach service to a local bus service.
East Coast is profitable, and returns a healthy surplus to the treasury every year.
Northern is far from profitable, and takes massive subsidies to keep it going.
The muppets at the SRA (since collapsed back in to the DfT) at the time Northern's franchise was let decided that it should be a "zero growth" franchise, meaning passenger numbers would not rise over the term of the franchise and fleet investment would therefore be minimal. The franchise is now over (and Northern still have at least a year or two thanks to the Virgin cock-up in 2012) and passenger numbers are up considerably.
Whilst I now accept they aren't making a profit, I don't believe it's unfair for any rail passenger to expect reasonable continuity in regards to the quality of services. I wasn't expecting a first class service, nor did I pay for one (although of course I did buy a ticket, I'm not trivialmatters), but the quality of the outward train was well below par, lacking many amenities like tables, power sockets and even air conditioning, and using those awful bus bench seats. The return train was also, I believe, a pacer, but it did have proper train seats, and there was no wooden escape ladder on show, so there was some improvement there.
But back to the outward journey, and it wasn't like I was doing some odd rural journey that meant there was no need for it to be a particularly comfortable journey - it was a 45 minute journey into Manchester, so probably often used by commuters, who would benefit from tables, power sockets and the like. It was a busy service and I don't think it's unfair to say that it should have been better served than it was.
Whilst in the future I will probably be more understanding if the quality of a Northern train is below par, other passengers won't be, and will just see it as a very poor service, especially when you pull into a big station like Manchester and see all these nice trains from other TOCs with nice, proper chairs, tables and the like.
Critique wrote:I went to Ely the other week and the dot-matrix display kept scrolling something along the lines of 'This is a 'one' railway service to Peterborough.' It's only been six years since that brand was used (turns out it stood for 'operated by national express' and was supposed to unite the former three franchises for the area, but instead just confused people in station announcements - '7:20 one service' or the '7:21 service')
Count the amount of First Capital Disconnect trains which still peg themselves as WAGN and station Thales Matrix Boards that say WAGN/www.wagn.co.uk
! Even where I work we still refer to Network SouthEast on some systems! We split things using codes BRB and LUL (not NWR and TFL respectively!)
Turns out that seeing 'one' on the dot matrix wasn't to be the only deceased TOC I would see referenced this month! I received this carrier bag in a newsagents today - why they still have them ten years on is a mystery...
Despite being basic their branding, on the carrier bag at least, has survived quite well - I did a double take when I received it and began to wonder if Abellio had lost the franchise overnight or something!
Critique wrote:...turns out it stood for 'operated by national express'...
Ooh! I never knew that! Presumably a backronym, as 'one' itself was chosen for its unifying status, I'd have thought...
To be fair I had previously thought that 'one' and National Express were two different franchise holders - there were no similarities between the 'one' brand and then National Express brand adopted in 2008, and I can't remember anything from the time advertising 'one' rebranding to National Express, as opposed to the TOC changing altogether.