And when the service fails it tends to do so quite spectacularly. The thin thread which holds Northern Rail together seems to snap very easily.
The whole network in the North of England needs sorting out, and my group of magazines are all going to campaign on this issues throughout 2011.
But there's another issue. The digitally literate public now have an outlet for that frustration. On any given day my Twitter lights up with bilious rage from commuters crammed on trains or stranded at windswept stations. Each message is tagged #northernfail and someone dutifully sends them all on again. There's even a website called Northern Fail.
Between Christmas and New Year the conductors are going on strike. This, despite only a third of them actively voting for strike action.
Let's be honest, this is a company that is losing its PR battle.
So what are they doing? Apart from sponsoring a minor Rugby League tournament, not much. Dave Higgerson, here, points out that the company is fighting a rearguard action to buy up some domain names. I'll let him take this up:
"According to allwhois.com, northernfail.org was snapped up by the York-based company on October 5th, along with northernfail.com. Both take you through to this default landing page from 123reg. Given the trashing they take on northernfail.co.uk you can perhaps see the reason behind their actions, but I’m also inclined to think that surely prevention would be better than cure?It makes you wonder about the job someone has in York, fighting this overwhelming negativity. What a tragic way to earn a living.
In which case, working a bit harder to appease disgruntled customers might be a better way to protect the brand. Snapping up the domain names which relate to criticism suggests you’re no so much interested in improving things as you are silencing people."