No sense of responsibility on Northern Rail or Network Rail



The terminal at Nairobi is far better than the hell hole of  termkinal one at Manchester Airport

Last Monday I had the first of my wet palm events (there were many more!) The train from Liverpool to Manchester Airport broke down. These things happen and to give them their credit a relief train came in about an hour to move it forward.

But in many ways the service provided to passengers on the train was abysmal. As it was a train to the airport you might well expect it to have people on it who did not understand much English. You would be right. I recognised at least 4 languages in the carriage that I was in. There was not one attempt to try and convey the problems in any language other than English. We really make people feel at home.

The next problem was that the train was terminated not at Manchester Piccadilly where there lots of trains to Manchester Airport but at Manchester Victoria where there are none. Did the guard on the train explain what to do and how to get to Piccadilly for the Airport trains? NO. Was there anyone at the station to advise people what to do and get them to Piccadilly for the Airport Trains? NO. In fact the lack of customer care was an absolute disgrace!

I was thinking of that last night when the snow falls in Amsterdam led me to get the train to Brussels in time for the first Eurostar train this morning. Every member of staff that I approached at the Schiphol train station could talk to me in English. The conductor of the train from Amsterdam Central to Schiphol could clearly speak 3 languages. They like foreign visitors and work to keep their affection.

How many of the staff at Liverpool Lime Street, a major entry for foreign visitors to our city, can speak a foreign language? How many conductors on the trains between London; Manchester Airport and Liverpool can speak a foreign language? I don’t know but I would guess precious few. We rely on our visitors to speak our language. What arrogance and disrespect we show. I know that conductors on our local railways want better pay. Perhaps we could train and support them better so that they can be better ambassadors for our city!

But that leaves me to much wider considerations. Firstly, about language. We are very lucky that the preferred second language for most travellers is American – a language with strong similarities to our own. But if we want to attract more people to our City and Country we need to show more respect

In this regard where are the easy to understand, multi-language signs in the stations or our City Centre? How many of our taxi drivers can speak one of the main international languages of French, Spanish or increasingly Mandarin Chinese. How rarely do we try and learn even a few basics of a language when we go to another Country?  We rely on speaking s l o w l y and LOUDLY. People are absurdly pleased when we even make a mangled attempt to speak their language. If we are to make our way int eh world we must do more to understand both languages and cultures of other people.

The train from Amsterdam to Brussels cost about £35 with no pre-booking or discount. My journey to Liverpool this morning took a similar time cost £94 with a similar discount. Admittedly the inter city service I was on was nowhere the quality of trains that the Virgin Pendolino gives but there is a  huge price difference. The bone shakers of Northern Rail that currently greet our international guests hardly provide a good impression for our Country.

I started this blog on a train and returned to it once again at Manchester Airport. This Airport is an absolute disgrace. Queuing for flights in a noisy squalid environment is not conducive for a calm state of mind – especially for people who do not travel regularly. People shouting at you enforcing entirely different riles. My bag last Monday with KLM was acceptable but the same bag with basically the same stuff was not acceptable to Etihad.

The security queues led you to a dingy underground room which was nightmare to be in for 20 minutes. Heaven help the staff who wish to work here. There is a glamourous bit of duty free in Terminal One but you then emerge into a squalid waiting area to wait for your flight to be gated.

I find this all very sad. First and last impressions count but this Country basically waves two fingers at our guests. We want their money but treat them very badly. We will be the losers from this process at a time when we need international friends the most.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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1 Response to No sense of responsibility on Northern Rail or Network Rail

  1. The Childwall Kid says:

    Bang on the money there Richard. I remember being sent on a French course 20+ years ago by my then employer, National Museums Liverpool, so I was a better ambassador for our city to visitors. I guess funding for such initiatives has all but dried up? I hope not, tourism clearly a massive part of our local economy.

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