The Christmas Eve debacle

Those of you who travelled, or attempted to travel, on Christmas Eve this year may have noticed that half our trains were cancelled. Christmas Eve this year was on a Sunday.

Apparently there were 73 cancellations on Northern Rail, plus other shortened journeys (e.g. Manchester to Southport trains terminating at Wigan), mostly in the North West.

Publicly the reason was “a member of staff being unavailable”, which sort of implies that it’s a failing on the part of said member of staff to make themselves available, and not really the fault of the train company.

The terms and conditions of staff based in the NW date back to the late unlamented First North Western (whose franchise ended 13 years ago), and Sunday working is dependent on voluntary overtime and rest day working. Now you may think that voluntary rest day working isn’t a robust and effective way to ensure that the timetabled Sunday service can run, and Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year rather reinforced that point.

Trains crewed from Leeds and elsewhere in Yorkshire not affected to anything like the same extent, as we understand that their terms and conditions (any railway employees reading this feel free to correct us on this point) include Sunday working.

There are train companies in other parts of the country whose drivers’ contracts don’t include Sunday working, and who are also dependent on rest day working for the Sunday service to operate. They didn’t have multiple cancellations this Christmas Eve. Presumably there’s a reason why others succeeded where Northern Rail failed.

Hoping that this isn’t repeated on New Year’s Eve.

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