NORTHERN'S low rankings in two recent customer satisfaction surveys reflect opinions of Northwich rail passengers, a passenger group has said.

The company, which won the Mid Cheshire Line franchise in 2015, has postponed promises for extra services through Northwich and has endured months of industrial action over the future role of train guards.

A Which? survey conducted in the autumn gave Northern a customer satisfaction score of 32 per cent, while the National Rail Passenger Survey scored it 72 per cent – just four points above the worst-ranked in the country.

This included scores of 54 per cent for value for money, punctuality 65 per cent, cleanliness 64 per cent, level of crowding 69 per cent and dealing with delays 31 per cent.

Arriva Trains Wales' satisfaction rating was 10 points ahead, while Merseyrail scored 90 per cent.

Meanwhile, in the Which? survey, Northern scored one out of five for punctuality, frequency, value for money and availability of seats, compared to Arriva Trains Wales' three out of five in all categories and Merseyrail's four out of five.

The Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association acts as a go-between for passengers and the company, and has long-since lobbied Northern for improvements to the line.

MCRUA chairman John Oates said: "These official figures confirm what MCRUA and rail users are saying on the Mid Cheshire Line.

“Scoring one out five on all categories in the Which? Report, although based on a sample of 204 commuters, has got to be wake up call for an organisation to get their house in order.

“On the larger survey carried out by Transport Focus covering 1,349 passengers in autumn 2018, Northern overall customer satisfaction dropped to 72 per cent whereas in autumn 2015 it peaked at 84 per cent.

“If that was your local supermarket, you would probably decide to shop elsewhere but for passengers on the Mid Cheshire Line there is no alternative but to take the car.

“Any successful organisation will have at the top of their agenda 'exceeding customers’ expectations'.

“I am sure all rail users would agree with this priority.”

Northern has apologised for the poor showing, citing a myriad of difficult conditions the company has faced in recent years.

Managing director David Brown said: “The overall satisfaction result was 72 per cent compared to 81 per cent in the previous autumn wave.

“The results are disappointing but not surprising when we look at the challenges the rail industry, and in particular Northern, faced in 2018.

“Delayed and overrunning engineering work across the north west, challenging autumn conditions, continued fallout caused by the May 2018 timetable and the ongoing RMT dispute were significant factors.

"These affected our ability to deliver the level of service customers expect and deserve and we are very sorry.”