After a year of chaos for trains in Hull, what does 2019 have in store?

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 3 Jan 2019

In many ways, 2018 turned out to be a year bosses Hull’s rail network would rather forget.

The first quarter of the year was dominated by the dreaded ‘Beast from the East’, as train companies struggled to cope with the extreme weather conditions.

In March, Hull Trains was found to have one of the highest rates for delays and cancellations of any route in Britain. More than one in five services were severely affected in the month, sparking anger from commuters between Hull and London.

Hull MP Diana Johnson has been a harsh critic of Hull Trains on several occasions this year.

In June, she accused the operator of being “in meltdown” over its turbulent start to 2018, and went as far as to say it was “not fit for the route down to London”.

Hull Trains responded, saying problems earlier in the year had been rectified.

Hull North MP Diana Johnson. (kwoolhouse)

For a period, that proved to be true. The summer months saw significantly less disruption for Hull Trains passengers.

In August, managing director Louise Cheeseman said her team had “worked tirelessly” to turn things around and deliver a consistent service.

The summer performance, unfortunately, did not last, and the final quarter of the year saw chaos returning to the rails.

On one day in mid-October, Hull Trains was unable to put a service on the tracks, with all four of its fleet out of action.

Problems continued throughout November and into December. Ms Johnson admitted at the time she did not think parent company, First Group, was giving enough support to the struggling operator.

Just this month, after she herself endured a “nightmare journey” from London to Hull, she fired shots at Hull Trains by saying the situation was “really not good enough”.

“How can passengers be treated like this?” she asked.

Passengers must be 'at the heart of decision making'

Northern Rail also had more than its fair share of disruption during 2018. Ongoing talks between union RMT and the operator have appeared far from fruitful, leading to continuous strikes from conductors.

Hull’s service to Scarborough – via places such as Cottingham and Beverley – has at times been hard hit. Strikes have hit Northern every Saturday in December, with evening services the worst affected.

An RMT member holds a sign against rail fare increases, ahead of new inflation figures which will set next year's price increases, outside King's Cross station in London.

Disruption to two of Hull’s main operators – Northern and Hull Trains – have put the city in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Fresh calls were made earlier this year for electrification of the line between Hull and Selby; a move which was controversially scrapped back in 2016.

Transport for the North boss Barry White admitted train performance across Yorkshire had “not been good enough” this year, and said future changes “must put passengers at the heart of decision making".

New year, new start?

The ‘new year, new start,’ mantra looks like it could get off to a rocky start, as Union RMT has already released strike dates for Northern Rail conductors.

Workers will strike on every Saturday in January, it has been announced, with almost no trains running after 5pm.

It comes after the RMT caused misery for commuters with a series of similar strikes throughout December.

Read more: Hull Trains reveals first image of new hi-tech fleet in £60m investment

Saturday, December 22, marked the 41st day of strike action, in what has been a two-year dispute between the union and rail operator.

On the Hull Trains front, the company will be hoping the start of 2019 brings better fortune than it endured for parts of 2018.

An artist's impression of the new Hull Trains

A light at the end of the tunnel is in the sight for Hull Trains though, with its £60m fleet of new high-tech Hitachi trains set to be rolled out later in 2019.

Hull Trains has said the new trains will increase its fleet from the current four, to five, with an extra 20 per cent seating capacity on each.

It has pledged faster, more comfortable journeys for passengers, with the possibility of shorter journey times to London.

After a torrid 2018 for passengers in Hull, it is time to cross fingers for a brighter 2019.

Hull’s image of being “out on a limb” has lingered too long. It is time to change that, and the rail network needs to play a starring role.

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