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The Cains Brewery. A regional urban brewery with a lot of character, an excellent range of high quality beers (mainly real ale, but also lager) that are superbly branded. Under the ownership of the enterprising Dusanj brothers, owners since 2003, the brewery has a very bright future and is expanding at a rapid rate- in all respects. Cains brews beer from its beautiful, victorian brewery on Stanhope Street in Liverpool. Cains was established by the Irishman, Robert Cain, in the mid nineteenth century. Since that time, and especially in the more recent past, the brewery has experienced mixed fortunes, changing hands on various occasions. However, the new owners since 2003, the Dusanj brothers, are two enterprising and adventurous individuals, who have done a world of good for the brand. The best place to find out about Cains is by visiting their website, www.cains.co.uk This excellent website provides plenty of information on their products, brewery tour, history and latest news. You can also order crates of their excellent beers for delivery by post!! Cains have around 5 standard ales, and around 12 that are seasonal. There are also 2 lagers. The best place to experience Cains is in Liverpool, where the superb cask "Best" bitter is served in numerous pubs. But to enjoy the fuller Cains range you will need to visit the Robert Cains pubs. At the moment there are 9, 8 of which are in or around central Liverpool (one in Birkenhead.) My favourite is Dr Duncans which is just a few minutes from Lime St station and in my opinion, one of the best urban pubs in the country. All of the Robert Cains pubs offer superb, high quality drinking environments. Cains recently (May 2007) purchased a company giving them access to around 100 pubs, mainly in the North West, so we can expect to see the Cains brand expand in the near future. For those outside of the North West, accessing Cains beer is more difficult. I know that some supermarkets in Yorkshire stock Cains FA in bottle and can, and the Best bitter in cans. Personally, I think it is a great shame that people outside the North West, and Liverpool in particular, cannot enjoy Cains' more extensive offer - preferably from the cask barrel in pubs, and if not that, then from the bottle. Personally, I'm not fond of canned beer at all, regardless of the brand. However, I have every faith in the dynamic new owners and believe Cains will become a well known brand through out the country over the next few years. The company website is the first port of call for this sort of information, and if you register you will get occasional updates by email. If Cains can expand beyond the North West I believe they will be very, very successful. The quality of their beer is excellent, especially the real ale. My personal favourites are the "Best" bitter, "Capital of Culture 2008" and "Dragon Heart" (one of their seasonals.) I am also very fond of the Finest Lager, which has to be the best British brewed lager on the market, and has a good kick at just over 5%. The Cains range is not only of a very good quality, but is expanding all the time. A Double Bock was introduced recently, which I haven't yet had the opportunity to sample, but it says a lot about the adventurousness and ambition of the brewery. I also think that the branding of the Cains range is superb. There is something fresh and exciting about the labelling and the iddentity of the brand that isn't matched by the other larger brewers of good beer. Most of the larger brewers, brewing high quality beer, have a blandness about them. They are not excited about brewing excellent beer the way Cains are. This is my favourite brand of beer, and I can;t wait for them to expand towards Yorkshire where I have been living for the last few years. At the moment I have to visit Liverpool to drink the stuff (which isn't a bad thing in itself, but it would be nice if I could get it in my local or supermarket.) This brewery has a very bright future and I look forward to it taking over the national market. Bottoms up!
If I were asked to rate West Yorkshire Metro and their Partners, Northern, on a scale of 1 to 10 I certainly wouldn't be rating them any higher than a 4, and even that would be generous. I am a Metro Card holder and use this on buses and trains on my daily commute between Leeds and Halifax. I use the trains (trains and stations are operated I believe by Northern) between Leeds and Halifax on a daily basis and have been appalled by the level of punctuality and reliability. Trains are routinely late; it is very rare a train will be on time. The reliability of the services is poor as well and it can make commuters lives a misery. In the last 2 months, 4 of my trains have been cancelled and I have been made to wait for at least twenty minutes for the next one. The train that does come along is then woefully overloaded with passengers. It isn't a particularly complex network that is being operated and I think it is totally unacceptable that the service provided is so bad. My commute only involves travelling 2 stops (it amounts to about 12 miles "as the crow flies") so for the jounrey to some times take nearly 50 minutes is just pathetic. People travelled more quickly than that in the nineteenth century. The rolling stock is generally rubbish, consisting of trundling old diesels. Some times it feels like being on a crappy, old bus on rails. In fact, some of their trains seem to be pass-me-downs from Merseyrail as they haven't changed the livery on some of them. Any operator that is accepting 30 year old junk from other operators is obviously pretty desperate. MY MAIN GRIPE: The customer service is chronic. I made the silly mistake this morning of leaving my wallet in the house. My wallet contained my Metro Card. I was dropped off at the station today which is miles from home, and only then realised my awful error (how could I do such a thing!?) and so was effectively trapped there without any money or my Metro Card. There was no way for me to get back home and nobody I could call. I had no choice but to board my train and go to work in the hope that I could borrow money from colleagues to get back home. As it happens, the ticket inspector, despite being a bit grumpy and OTT at first, could see that I was genuine and simply trying to get to the office. At first he complained that I should have told him before getting on the train, but I explained that I was worried he wouldn't let me on. He simply said "I am not like that", which leads me to think that others are and wouldn't have let me on the train. He took my address and telephone number for some reason. Once I arrived at Halifax station I decided to visit the ticket office/information centre to try to find a solution. After all, I had paid my £82.00 Metrocard for the month and innocently left it, and my money, at home- surely there would be a way to get around this as a one off? I explained the situation to the guy in the ticket office. I'm not sure what his name was but he seemed to be in his twenties. His customer service skills were abysmal and I found him to be totally unpleasant. Considering the amount that I have to tolerate from WY Metro/Northern on a weekly basis, it would be nice if they could at least provide staff who are friendly and helpful. The staff in the Halifax station were not. It seems that this puss-filled blister of a company not only provides crappy trains, poor punctuality and unreliability, but also provides sour faced and truculent staff to add to the woes of their paying customers. I explained what had happened and asked the member of staff whether WY Metro/Northern have a database with customer details on. My reasoning was that any modern company would have a computer system containing such information. That way, somebody like myself who did not have their Metrocard and wallet (in my case out of human error, but in other instances people could be mugged or lose their posessions for some other reason) would be able to make some unqiue arrangement by proving they have in fact paid for their pass and therefore should be allowed to travel under the circumstances. Me: "... I don't have my wallet, I don't have my money, I don't have my pass.... so is there a database of some kind? Or is it possible for you to phone another department? I'm really desperate here, it's an innocent mistake. I've paid to use the trains, I just don't have the card." "No", he grunted back, with a gormless and unhelpful look on his face. "Well what can I do in this situation? I'm trapped here. I've paid 82 quid for my pass, is there not any way around this- an exceptional occurence?" "You have to buy a ticket, don't you?" "But I've just explained to you I have no money! Surely there is a system that registers customers who buy passes? I even paid with my debit card." "No." "Well I think that is poor." "Well it's poor that you left your wallet at home", he replied in an unpleasant and confrontational manner. "Yes, I'm aware of that!" I walked out of the station as this individual was clearly uninterested in helping me. Once I arrived in work I phoned WY Metro in an attempt to find out if there was a system in place for people who end up in my situation (as explained, there are various ways in which paying customers could end up in the position I was.) It seems that there is not. WY Metro/Northern, on top of everything else that they do badly, do not have the robust systems in place that are taken for granted in most other modern-day companies and organisations. Despite the fact that I gave address details etc when I registered for my Metro Card, no record is kept of these details by the company. You simply fill in a form for the sake of it and it is not recorded electronically. So even if you have paid for their over priced pass, if you happen to be dispossessed of it somehow, you can expect no help whatsoever. Am I the only one who thinks all of this is a bit poor for the twenty first century, in an advanced nation? Whilst WY Metro/Northern make plenty of mistakes on a weekly basis, and provide a generally substandard service, make damned sure you don't make any mistakes yourself, becuase you will not be helped and you will not be forgiven. Luckily for me I was able to borrow money at work to get back home. Annoyingly, the train home was late, and the one before it had been cancelled, so it was packed to the point of being hazardous and the environment was uncomfortably hot.
I am a BT customer. I have been for the last 3 years. They supply my land line phone, and my broadband internet. For the most part, my phone and my internet have worked fine. There has been the odd occasion when my broadband has temporarily gone a bit funny, but I think this can be attributable to all sorts of different factors, such as the weather. My main gripe with BT is that their customer service is absolutely abysmal. Had I been writing this a few weeks ago after I moved house there would have been a lot of foul language. I moved house a few weeks ago. I arranged with BT to change my address at least a week in advance of me moving. Once I'd moved to the new house the phone wasn't working properly and the broadband was non existant. I decided to give them a day or two to get their act together, before phoning up. There was no change after a few days, so I phoned up their 150 number at work on my lunch break. It took me a good 35 mins before I actually spoke to a human being. Sadly, that person ended up being either a liar or incompetant. They promised my phone and broadband would be working by the time I got home. It wasn't; nor was it the following day or evening. I called them again; this time after work. It took me 40 mins of waiting before I got through to someone. I explained the situaiton and they put me through (after a further 15 mins) to some foreign call centre who deal with technical queries. After speaking to this new person for about 20 mins I was informed that my account had been cancelled and that I needed to go back to customer service. Unfortunately, as it was after 9pm by this point, they had gone home. So I'd spent over an hour of my evening only to be informed somebody had screwed up my account. I phoned up the next day, by this time very annoyed at being passed around all the time. The person I eventually got through to told me my account had not been cancelled. I complained that I was being passed around and receiving false information all the time. I was eventually passed through to a foreign call centre again for technical help. This time I received the honest answer that there were delays in connecting people and that I would be connected in a couple of days. It's a shame I had to spend hours of my time on the phone, being lied to along the way, to find this simple fact out. Not to mention that they were a week late in connecting me (despite taking money from my account for these services which I have a contract for... And no, I won't try to phone them and get money back, it isn't worth it!) I was connected after a couple of days of the last call, and everything has worked fine since then. My conclusion therefore is that my BT internet and phone service are fine in their day to day running, but that the customer service offered is summed up by the following adjectives: woeful, abysmal, dismal, appalling, chronic, crap, evil, infuriating... ad nauseum. Sadly, I'm not sure if there is anything better available.
A lot of the Merseyrail reviews featured on this site are 7-8 years old now and I think the service deserves a more up to date commentary. Merseyrail is today the most reliable/punctual rail service in the UK, with a customer satisfaction rating of over 91% There were early difficulties with the system following privatisation, but it is my understanding that the Passenger Transport Executive, Merseytravel, and its new Dutch partners (with whom it has a long-term agreement to run the rolling stock) has brought about massive improvements. In addition to the improved reliability, much of the rolling stock has been improved also. Although this, I believe, only applies to the Merseyrail Electric sections of the system (the Northern Line and Wirral Line, which include the underground under Liverpool city centre.) The electric rolling stock is, in my opinion, quite smart now having been repainted, and having interiors improved to include new seating, general decor, and digital information screens. The service is usually very reliable and frequent. The trains themselves seem to be quite fast and accelerate rapidly due to their being electric. Which is more than what can be said for the chundling diesel junk you get in other parts of the country. The network is quite extensive for a local railway, and includes just under 70 stations, 7 of which (I think) are underground stations in central Liverpool and Birkenhead (and the tunnel that goes under the Mersey.) It is possible to travel in good time from Liverpool city centre to Chester, West Kirby (nice West Wirral beaches), Birkenhead Park (a very large urban park), Formby (sand dunes and wildlife reserves), Southport (beaches, etc) and numerous other places. Although I don't think the diesel lines are as good as the electric ones, and use older rolling stock (there run on the Liverpool-Manchester line.) On the whole though, the Merseyrail network is better than what is available in most provincial areas outside of London, with the possible exception of Newcastle and Glasgow, which also have electric metro networks, with underground segments. My only quibble would be that the underground stations in central Liverpool could do with being upgraded. There have been some improvements which include shopping facilities, electric barrier and ticketing machines, and all are fully staffed. But I wish they would be upgraded as the decor is still as it was in the 1970s when the things were built. There is also a subway/underpass leading from Lime St station to Lime St underground which is totally safe but feels dangerous to visitors due to its scruffy and dated appearance. I'd like to see a total refurb of all the underground sections in Liverpool, including better lighting and new tiles, etc. Merseyrail is one of the most utilised public transport networks in the country and I think its about time that lovely quango, Network Rail, dished out some money to improve it. At this time, 13th May 2007, there are major works replacing all the track under Liverpool city centre, and part of the central circular section is closed off. But this should make for a long-term improvement in performance and safety.