Newest Review: ... After making the journey I double checked online (I also contacted someone from Northern Rail customer services) who confirmed that as m... more
Its A Northern Thing
Member Name: hunnybabyuk
Date: 20/09/09, updated on 30/05/11 (439 review reads)
Advantages: Great for quick journeys, huge selection of routes & destinations
Disadvantages: Disgusting, old & dirty trains, staff can be misserable
Northern Rail (commonly known to Northerners as 'Northern') are the latest of operators to run the rail franchise for Northern England. It's a joint 50/50 venture between Serco Group PLC & NedRailways (NS Dutch Railways) and commenced services on 12th December 2004 after the old operator, Arriva, lost the franchise.
Northern operate about 200 trains & run a mix of commuter routes, rural routes and some longer distance services in/out & around over 500 stations in Cheshire, County Durham, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumberland, Tees Valley, Tyne & Wear and Yorkshire. They manage 471 stations on behalf of Network Rail, some of which are rather run down but some are newly refurbished, with nice designs & ticket offices.
Northern Rail's timetables are quite good, trains start early in the morning on most routes, operating right through until late evening 7 days a week for most journeys which is great, your never that long away from another Northern service. Infact Northern operate 33 timetables plus they operate the METRO system in West Yorkshire which is a comination of train services on behalf of Metro (the West Yorkshire Passenger Executive). The timetables are easy to use, and for those who are totally clueless theres a guide for you lot too at the front which tells you how to read it, they are numbered too so when new ones come out you know the timetable number for your route as it alway stays the same. Timetables can be downloaded from the Northern website, mixed with others at TravelNorthEast.co.uk or collect a printed copy from your local station.
Fares are stupidly high, but they are set by the rail regulator, NOT Northern. Advance fares are better and Northern Rail do some great deals from time to time including their Duo ticket, the Duo ticket allows two passengers to travel for the price of one and is available during off-peak times on various routes, its a great way for a couple or two mates to get out by train. Railcards are accepted and I deffinately recommend getting one, they cost (unless you get a free one with your bank account like I did which sadly just expired 2 months ago), but I would deffinately say get one, especially if you intend to travel longer distance and/or frequently.
Northern's trains are not all that great, infact, apart from some of those that operate the WYMetro routes, they are awful. They tend to be tidy, i.e. rubbish free but graffiti is a common sight on some of the oldest of the fleet and they are rarely clean, they arn't all that bad for quick journeys but they aren't the most pleasant of trains. Chairs are sometimes uncomfy, dirty and you never know whats on the fabric, I never dare use the toilets on Northern trains. The whole train fleet could do with a revamp, I am from North East (Tees Valley) area and now live in Manchester, it's a shame Northern don't bring the nicer trains they use in Yorkshire to us as more people would use them but it's not part of the franchise agreement to use new trains so I doubt they will waste any money on it.
Overall, for a quick short journey i.e. Thornaby to Darlington, Newcastle to Metrocentre, Manchester Picadilly to Manchester Airport, they are not that bad but I would hate a 2 or 3 hour trip with them, the trains are old and should be replaced, or at least refurbished to make them a bit more pleasant considering the fares we pay. Staff arn't all that bad, some are pleasant but generally they can't be bothered with passengers.
Summary: Not bad I suppose for quick journeys