SIR, Despite the "spin" from Translink in their quarterly news sheet telling the long-suffering passengers on the Larne Line how wonderful their rail service is, things are now getting back to what the passengers know is normal and which Translink clearly considers as acceptable.
Morning and evening trains are consistently late. The so-called morning Express has now been late for over four weeks as have most of the evening trains. Passengers are crammed on to overcrowded trains.
Yet they have the audacity to tell us 'getting there is getting better' and try to ram this rubbish down our throats by displaying posters to that effect in their stations. As this is clearly not true, perhaps they are trying to amuse us? I and I am sure most of the passengers certainly are not amused.
Then there are the current television and radio adverts which don't even show the 'wonderful' rolling stock that we enjoy. If it's so good then why not tell everyone about it? Passengers who don't use the Larne line probably don't even know that a new train on the Larne line is almost as rare as a snowstorm in June!
The Larne Line Passenger Group has met with Translink on many occasions and among other issues has frequently raised the issue of overcrowding. Translink have always responded by saying that they don't have additional rolling stock to improve passenger accommodation. This is clearly contradicted by their recent press statement which I have copied here.
"NI Railways have announced that additional passenger capacity is to be added to two services operating on the Londonderry Line from Friday 29th September 2006. The 16.05 Friday service from Great Victoria Street to Londonderry and the 16.55 service from Londonderry to Great Victoria Street will operate using new C3K trains with six car sets. Passengers will benefit with an additional 200 seats on each of the two services to accommodate the rise in demand.
"Mal McGreevy Ni Railway General Manager said:
"NI Railways are aware that passenger demand for these two services has significantly increased. The decision has been made to operate larger trains with double the capacity in order to facilitate our passengers who are voting with their feet and availing of the comfort and convenience offered by our new trains.
We routinely monitor all our services and amend timetables and operations where possible to provide the best service for all our passengers."
It seems they have managed to produce two additional trains (six carriages) for the Londonderry line 'in response to customer demand'. Aren't they really nice people as they go on to say that they like to 'provide the best service for all our passengers'? They should add to this 'except those on the Larne line who we couldn't care less about!'
A little honesty would be good for a change since Translink seems to think if they tell us everything is wonderful someone might just believe them. Quite frankly this 'spin' is even more frustrating than the lousy service they provide. It is even more frustrating when passengers have legitimate complaints rebuffed and are made to feel like liars even though they experience all this lousy service at first hand day and daily.
Translink must be held to account for their shabby treatment of Larne line passengers. My colleagues and I in the Larne Line Passenger Group have worked tirelessly to try to obtain the service that we on the Larne line deserve as of right and not just that which Translink think they can get away with.
We must continue to challenge them and to this end we have asked their rail services manager, Mr Mal McGreevy to attend our next meeting to be held in Carrickfergus Library on Wednesday, November 1 at 6.15pm. Mr Eddie Lynch from the General Consumer Council is also expected to attend.
I would encourage all passengers who use the Larne line to make a point of attending this very important meeting and putting your questions directly to Mr McGreevy. This is your opportunity to impress on Translink that you are fed up with the lousy service they give us and that something positive must be done for the Larne line. We are entitled to our fair share of the publicly owned rail service in Northern Ireland. It ultimately belongs to us as taxpayers and citizens. My colleagues and I look forward to meeting with you on November 1.
Larne Line Passenger Group