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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Lack of train drivers hits coastal service

TRAIN services on the Cumbria coastal line are being cancelled because of a shortage of drivers.

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TRAIN CONCERNS: Not only are passengers who use rail services to and from Barrow facing an increase in fares in the new year, some also face an increase in waits and replacement services as Northern Rail has a shortage of drivers

The Evening Mail has received complaints from passengers who travel between Millom and Barrow, who have fallen victim of last-minute cancellations by provider Northern Rail.

One South Copeland-based passenger, who did not wish to be named, said his return journey to Barrow on Saturday December 1 was fraught with difficulty.

On that occasion, he said the outbound 10.33am service from Millom and the 5.25pm return service from Barrow were both cancelled at short notice.

The following 6.10pm north-bound service only goes as far as Millom, so passengers who planned to ride beyond had to rely on a mixture of rail-replacement taxis and coaches.

The same disgruntled customer described how there was a “stampede” to get on the crowded single-carriage service.

Carolyn Watson, Northern Rail head of corporate communications, apologised to passengers and said: “We have a temporary shortage of drivers in the area and we have had no option other than to provide alternative road transport on some occasions.

“We also recognise that when services are cancelled, the following service can be overcrowded as a result, and once again we apologise to passengers who have experienced uncomfortable journeys because of this.

“We are working hard to cover these roles as quickly as possible, and have recruited a number of drivers who are currently being trained.

“In the case of qualified drivers, this is to familiarise themselves with the route and the trains they will drive.

“We would like to reassure our passengers we are doing everything we can to get to full working order as soon as possible.”

New above-inflation rail fares for next year have been announced and the customer who spoke to the Evening Mail, who does not drive, said he would have no choice but to continue riding trains, despite his unhappiness with the service.

He said: “It’s just the same situation again, non-drivers, we’re going to have to pay it.”

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