When is a service not a service? When it’s a First TransPennine Express service.

185131 heading for Manchester Airport

Oh yes, this is going to be one almighty gripe about our privatised rail service.

I rely on the First TransPennine Express rail service to commute to work every day. It’s a long commute with no viable alternative, so it’s important to me.

The First TransPennine Express rolling stock is not great. It’s basically a bus on rails, which is not really good enough for the inter-city route the service covers. The leg-room is hopelessly inadequate and everyday it is standing room only. The over crowding is so bad that every day the conductor (do they still call them conductors?) makes an announcement apologising for the overcrowding. In my view, an apology is only worth something if something is done about it. Unfortunately, nothing ever is done about it.

Anyway, that is not what I’m moaning about today.

Because of the overcrowding, I make seat reservations for every journey, and as I have an annual season ticket I make batch reservations for a few months at a time. This week I went to make my reservations and was told that there were no reservations allowed for my morning commute.

At the station where I make the reservations they had no further information so I phoned the First TransPennine Express customer support and after being passed around a bit I got to talk to someone. What they told me was just incredible.

When I asked why I was not allowed to make seat reservations on my regular train I was told it was because of staffing shortages.

“What do you mean?”, I asked.

“Well, we don’t have enough drivers to cover all the services we offer, so a few services may have to be cancelled if we can’t find a driver that day. We had planned to cover all services by offering overtime to drivers, but that hasn’t quite covered it.

“But your service has been alright, it’s only effected one other services so far. Not allowing reservations is only a precaution.”

“Hold on”, I said, “You’re telling me that on any given morning my train could be cancelled because you don’t have enough drivers to deliver your service?”

“I’m afraid so, so do check online before setting off.”

Suddenly, not being able to make seat reservations was not my primary concern.

These train companies make a lot of money, thay charge a lot for fares (it’s only just economical for me to commute to work) and they get a lot of government subsidy to run trains. Why can’t they employ, train and pay enough wages to drivers so they can provide the service they said they would provide?

Jeremy Corbyn is right, we need to re-nationalise the railways as soon as possible.