Left Behind By TPE (or “Communication Gets Me Down!”)

What a terrible day. I’m off to Paris via Edinburgh Airport, and my daughter is returning to Aberdeen with a heavy suitcase laden with academic books. We both booked the 09:37 TPE from Morpeth, with my daughter booking an onward connection from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. Arriving at Morpeth we were surprised to find the 08:55 Lumo train still on the platform. It turned out there was a disruptive passenger on board and the Lumo crew were awaiting the arrival of the transport police. The CIS showed the 09:01 LNER would be behind that, and the TPE would be the 3rd train from the northbound platform. No-one seemed to know when the police would arrive or when the Lumo would go, and of course I started to worry about my flight, and my daughter was concerned about her onward connection to Aberdeen. Suddenly though, I noticed, without either tannoy announcement or CIS indication, the TPE train had appeared on the southbound platform. This had been difficult to spot as the Lumo train was blocking the view. I shouted out to waiting passengers and we all started to race back through the subway to the other platform. I was able to get ahead of my daughter, who couldn’t manage the stairs with her heavy suitcase and needed to take the lift. Concerned about my flight, she shouted out to me to get on the train if I could. I did make it, and so did a few other passengers, but sadly, by the time my daughter arrived at the platform the Train Manager had shut closed the doors. Although the Train Manager’s own door remained open, she refused to let my daughter and those passengers behind her board. Meanwhile, I had advised a couple of passengers who had joined our Edinburgh service thinking they were going to Newcastle to get off the train … no platform staff were giving assistance. So I waved a tearful goodbye to my daughter, who realising she’d miss her connection at Edinburgh, and thus her business meeting in Aberdeen returned home, and booked a replacement ticket to Aberdeen for the following Monday. We will of course be asking TPE to refund the cost of the new ticket, and will keep you posted as to whether they do. Later, the Train Manager, who of course had no idea that there had been no announcement about the TPE wrong platform departure told me her Control had told her only 5 passengers had been left behind at Morpeth. I’m not so sure about that. I reckon there were 30 or so passengers running back through the subway, and suspect several, like my daughter just gave up, or resorted to cars or taxis. If you were caught up in this incident, please email me at chair@senrug.co.uk and let me know if you actually got the train, or were also left behind, and if so what you did. Meanwhile, a muted “well done” to Network Rail signallers for actually arranging for following services to pass the blocked Lumo train by reverse running on the southbound line – but all the advantage of that ingenuity is completely wasted if passengers are not told what is going on. High time rail managers realised that passengers have flights to catch, funerals to attend, job interviews to go to, and important business appointments to make. Travel is not optional for many passengers, and deliberately leaving people behind who are clearly running through the subway for a train which is standing at an unexpected platform with no announcements, will cause some to lose faith in rail travel for good.

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