EXPECTING a train operating company to know where it’s going doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but Northern Rail’s knowledge of the geography of the region it serves has become worrying.
The company has had a two-coach Sprinter unit covered with photographs of major landmarks in Yorkshire – and managed to put the historic Five Rise Locks on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Bradford, several miles away from their real location in Bingley.
| While – admittedly – Bingley is in the metropolitan borough of Bradford, it is on neither of the two rail lines serving the historic West Yorkshire city, but the Aire valley stretch of the Settle-Carlisle line.Incidentally, Northern Rail operates all three routes, so you’d think they’d know the difference.
Local attitudes in this part of West Yorkshire are particularly strong. Many have not forgiven politicians in London for council re-organisation changes in 1974 that abolished Keighley District Council, bringing the Aire valley towns into Bradford’s administrative grasp.
Pictures: Adam Christie
More determined residents will still only cross the ‘Great Wall of Bingley’ if they really have to, a fact which Northern Rail, and Newquest-Gannett, owners of weekly papers such as the Keighley News and Craven Herald, seem not to have learned.
The Five Rise Locks were opened in 1774, so it’s not as if they’re a new addition to the West Yorkshire landscape.
While Bradford was on a spur of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal serving the city’s wool mills, that waterway has been filled in for many years now. It’s legacy is Canal Road, which follows the same route, and the railway line, run by … Northern Rail.
|Another dimension to this faux-pas comes from the fact that Northern Rail is a partnership of the multi-national facilities company Serco and Netherlands Railways which took over the franchise for local services in the North of England in December 2004.|
Ironically perhaps, Serco is the commercial enterprise behind Education Bradford, overseeing schools in both the centre of Bradford and the suburban historic market town of Bingley.
Serco executives’ appreciation of the local geography does not seem a very good example to show off so brazenly in front of the area’s schoolchildren.
Despair and contempt
For West Yorkshire long-suffering commuters, this incident will only further increase their despair about poor service.
Having faced over-crowding, delays, cancellations and reliability problems since the railways were privatised in the 1990s, seeing money spent on inaccurate decorations rather than providing more carriages and seats is likely to increase passengers’ contempt.
While Northern Rail, as the train operating company, may be the most obvious target for ridicule, neither the banks profiting from expensively leasing rolling stock nor the government, which after 10 years has done little to rectify problems it inherited, should escape censure.
For now, however, it’s the executive credibility of Northern Rail and Serco which may well have left the station.