A NORTHWICH mum has branded Northern 'a disgrace' after promises over improved rail services fell flat on the first day of a newly improved timetable.

Nikki Hartland, of Lostock Gralam, said her two children, Josh and Ethan, rely on the service between their local station to Greenbank, as their means of public transport to take them to and from school at Hartford High.

Northern introduced a new timetable on Monday (September 14) which included additional services and carriages during both morning and evening peak times, but Nikki reported how her children were 'packed into two carriages like sardines' on the 8am train.

Nikki said: "A lot of parents rely on this service to help get their children to and from school.

"There were only two carriages on Monday morning, which means the usual cramped, packed in like sardines services has been resumed.

"Social distancing was impossible, with people under each others armpits.

"There were three carriages on the way home, but I do know that my eldest, who's in year 11, is having an extra lesson every day so they're actually getting the train home at 4.30pm rather than 3.30pm, so that is making a bit of a difference.

"Northern are putting children and others than use the line at risk."

Single parent Nikki, said the school had advised parents for children to only use public transport 'as a last resort' but how for some people that simply was a realistic option.

She added: "The situation with overcrowding on our trains has been a concern for a long time.

"But this is how the children from around here get to and from school.

"I'm a single parent who works and because I start at 8.30, I'm not able to take the kids to Hartford and get back in time.

"I've just forked out £450 for two annual passes for them both, so this is a disgrace, especially given the recent increase in coronavirus cases."

Nikki was so angered by the situation, she complained to Northern

"I don't know what the solution is, but the response I got back from Northern was a disgrace.

"If that is their response to a genuine concern, I just think that's appalling."

In the response, a copy of which was seen by the Guardian, Northern Customer Complaints Manager Tony Suleiman said he was 'sorry for any disappointment and concern caused by the number of carriages for your son's journey'.

He said: "With the change in the government's guidelines around getting people back to work we have had to substantially increase our services over the last few months with a major uplift taking place today.

"Due to this major increase in services we have had to redeploy these previously unused carriages across our network.

"This means the majority of the services have reverted back to using the number of carriages they were originally allocated prior to the covid-19 outbreak.

"Our conductors do report passenger numbers to our control team which helps us monitor the number of passengers on our service and identify where additional carriages may be utilised, if available.

"In regards to passengers social distancing on our services. Our staff are unable to enforce these guidelines or the wearing of face coverings, however we have advised our train crew that if they wish they may wish to engage with customers.

"We are also directing Travel Safety Officers to problem services and hot-spots, to support frontline staff and reinforce this messaging, but again note that they have no powers to enforce compliance."

As an aside, Mr Suleiman went on to explain how Northern are reminding customers to follow government advice and if choosing to travel with the company to take the following steps:

Avoiding busy times – helping all customers keep their distance.

Washing hands before and after journeys and carrying hand sanitiser.

Bringing and wearing a face covering, unless they are exempt and maintaining social distancing.