Merseyrail: A Giant Spectacular Cock Up

This rant to rail operator Merseyrail was penned by  Tony Cliffe, a masters student at the University of Chester.  Tony was rather irate when he wrote this, so DCR has, shall we say, sanded down its rougher edges!  If you would like to read the unexpurgated version, please click here to see it on Tony’s blog.

Tony was on his way – with tens of thousands of others – to see the ‘Giants Spectacular’, which is basically a city-wide puppet show in which the marionettes are, well… huge!  The crowds heading into the city to see the show were…  huge.

In their wisdom, Merseyrail decided that this would be a really good time to make Liverpool’s trains… smaller!

Dear Customer Relations at Merseyrail1  (Merseyfail/Miseryrail or Twats on a train)

Today, Friday 25th July 2014, at 9.30 am I bought my ticket at Maghull and boarded an extremely busy vessel of misery that is a Merseyrail train. I, along with thousands of other people, were on our way to see the ‘Giants Spectacular’ event in the city centre. You know – the one that’s been advertised for months?

On the basis of today, you clearly did not.

I thought the Giant Spectacular event was to see a 25 foot tall 85 year old and her relative who bore a disturbing likeness to Michael Jackson. In fact, to my horror, yet not to my surprise, the real giant spectacular was how spectacularly you, as a company failed to deliver any kind of respectable service or organisation. After having the misfortune of traveling almost daily on your network for four years, suffering at least 4 cancellations or delays at least every 2 days, plus once being stranded at Kirkdale when you shut the power off because someone said there was a lion on the tracks (I still can’t believe you were retarded enough to believe that one!). So please, let me congratulate you on sinking to a new low which, let me assure you, I didn’t think was actually possible. I mean, holy shit, you really screwed the pooch on this one. Even worse than that time the Kazakhstani athlete when she won gold had to sit through the Borat theme as her national anthem. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that that event was run by Merseyrail too.

Today, the day of one of the biggest ever events in Liverpool, an hour before the time that MJ junior woke up in Liverpool, predictably one of the busiest ever times to get into town, at one of the busiest stations on the network, much to everyone’s horror: You place into service a three-car on instead of  a six.  2

Now I’m not sure, sitting in your office – doing each other sexual favours and playing solitaire – if you understand just how serious this problem was. I do hope that your ‘planning department’ manage to get their vacant heads out of their backsides.  Do you know how it feels to have a halitosis-stricken pensioner pressed up against you for half an hour in heat which resembled gas mark 5 in an oven? Well, if you were on said train today you would have experienced such a horrific journey.

Of all my time on the network I didn’t think it was possible to fit so many people into such a small space. Due to your incompetence of electing to use a 3 car train, people had to skip the pleasantries and go straight to second base. So much for buying me dinner first. Was I and the rest of the poor paying passengers involved in a secret world record attempt of how many disgruntled passengers can you fit on a train? If so, I think you succeeded. You should also be entered in the Guinness Book of Records for being the worst company in the entire world.

All available places, including the space between the four seats were taken. How is that even possible? I sympathise with Sardines now, but I bet they’re treated much better than we were. So now, we leave Maghull. Personal space invaded, feeling at least 5 other peoples sweat dripping all over me, as we were all wedged in, we arrive at the next station. Lo and behold, not a single person could get on. Lo and behold Merseyrail staff were nowhere to be seen. A common theme I’ve seen develop over the years, when the going gets tough – your staff disappear like a fart in the wind.

I do wish you could have been a fly on the wall to hear just how many swearwords were being directed at your incompetence on such a train. There was a family on the train from London who said the tube was better than this and proceeded to call you a Twatwaffle. I have no idea what a Twatwaffle is but it seemed strangely appropriate as we continued to near dehydration on our incredibly hot and overcrowded cattle train. Please let that sink in that the TUBE is better than you! Dear lord. You know you’re bad when it’s that bad that it makes a Londoner, on public transport, talk to someone else. You’ve only gone and broken the universe!

After losing half my body weight in sweat and taking a breath every minute due to the constriction on my chest we finally arrived in Moorfields station to loud cheers and we exploded out of the train like a cork out of a champagne bottle. I think I’ll be cracking open a bottle myself to try and forget the train journey from hell. “More than just a journey” your posters boast as we bid farewell to our fellow survivors. Yeah your marketing team certainly got that right.

More than just a journey…

So, disgruntled, along with the other billion people on the train, I enjoyed watching the Frenchies play with Giant Puppets through my city. “It can’t be as bad going home as it was coming in”, I muse to myself.

Oh how wrong I was!

After this morning’s calamities you really pulled out all the stops. After already being tired from spending all day in 28c heat I was greeted with at least a mile long, motionless queue to get into Moorfields station.

“Jesus Christ! My mate’s just got the bus and got home in 20 minutes. I’m getting the bus”, the person in front of me in the line turned round to proclaim. Sure enough, he left. Once again, let me reiterate how poor that is. They chose a BUS over you. Again. Universe broken.

Waiting in line and getting pushed along towards the station we all had a sudden collective dread in the pit of our stomachs. As we got closer people realised that the horrors of this morning would no doubt be amplified. Of course if any other rail company was in charge there would be no problem. Instead people started to slow down, trying to back up like the child who backs away from their creepy uncle at parties, who, if he had worked for the BBC in the 70’s would certainly be in jail by now.

After waiting in line for 45 minutes (not “5 minutes” as your Twitter account lied to its customers) I finally entered the door of the station.  Here is where chaos descended. The barriers were open and literally gave a new meaning to “opening the flood gates”.

At first, as we British do, we started to walk in an orderly line towards the gate. Until, out of nowhere, a female member of staff to resembling a bulldog chewing a wasp started to bark orders, enticing the crowd into a confused, frenzied storm.


Thus commanded, people started to run. Grandmothers with their walking sticks and teenage mums with prams now started using them as weapons, panicking to get through. People piled on through the barriers, with the woman still screaming. Such unnecessary shouting made us all feel as if Godzilla had suddenly disguised himself as the giant grandmother and had ripped out of the costume and had wreaked havoc on the city. The way your bulldog was shouting was as if this was the only safe haven from it. Either that or Mrs Bulldog wished she was a general leading troops onto D-Day.

After being forced off my feet with the crowd through the barriers we ended up in what can only be described as ‘the holding area’ – like the area pigs go through before they’re slaughtered. Like animals we were shuttled into pens, with no idea which pen was for which train.

Miraculously, a member of staff appeared. Unfortunately, it was one of your vacant bylaw boy drones. “Excuse me mate, which ‘line’ is for Ormskirk?” I politely enquire.

“Just move down.”

“Well which line is it? It’s a simple question.”

“Just move down.”

Upon realising that your vacant drone had only been taught such customer service from Ryanair3 I soon realised that whatever I asked was to be greeted by the same three words, in an aggressive voice, as he continued to play on his standard issue iPhone and chew his gum.

“Did you enjoy the giants?”

“Just move down.”

“Was Saurez worth 75 million?”

“Just move down.”

“I have a blister on my foot can you take a look at it?”

“Just move down.”

“If you say just move down you’re confirming you’re a twat”

“Just move down.”

And, with that small crumb of comfort, I ended up in the wrong pen. After joining the hordes of running people to the platform, not to catch a train but an inch of air, I had to wait a further 10 minutes for my train.

Then Mr Bulldog-chewing-a-wasp appeared.4 He arrives on the platform, whistle in hand. Clearly excited by having the reeeaally big honour of having the power of blowing the whistle he proceeded to use it at every available opportunity before his announcements of “MOVE DOWN! MOVE DOWN! MOVE DOWN!”

He got more and more annoyed when the passengers finally had enough. We all stood still. I could see the smoke begin to pour out of his ears. He didn’t know what to do, his intimidation tactics hadn’t worked. He looked like my cat does when it farts and then looks around in innocent bewilderment. So he resorted to screaming at everyone – right in their faces – to MOVE DOWN! Even shouting at very small children and old women.

Finally, the train arrived after what felt like 10 years. After being packed into, what again was a pathetic three car service, we finally rattled back above ground and towards Maghull.5

The only saving grace of this stupidly busy journey home – which was actually busier than this morning (congratulations on breaking the world record again by the way) – was being pressed up against a rather impressively upholstered and very attractive young woman. I doubt however that she felt the same, being squashed as she was between me and another man who seemed to have hidden a power shower inside his clothes and was dripping sweat all over her.

Surely this is against some sort of human rights law?

What’s more annoying is not once was my ticket checked on the journey home. After spending £3.70 for the dubious privilege of such a journey I could have, due to inflation actually bought two Freddo’s for that price.6 Oh how much of a twattery that is.7

Finally after the longest, sweatiest, most crowded and hottest journey I’ve ever had, I stumbled off the train and through the station gates, wondering if I had been stood on by the giant and had in fact, entered Hell!

“Do we get a medal for this?” quipped one, dazed and confused fellow passenger, seemingly struggling to comprehend the torture he’d been subjected to and survived.

As I walk towards the station exit a poster boasts “best rail network in the country”. I’ve never been an angry man, nor have I ever had the urge to headbutt a wall and throw my fist through bricks. However seeing such a poster I experienced an anger I can only describe as Bruce Banner like (I know you’re simpletons, so for your information that’s the guy that turns into the Incredible Hulk).

As an academic, here’s a tip. When surveying ‘passengers’ the survey isn’t viable when you use your own staff as the passengers. If you actually went out to survey the real people who travel on your shit on wheels instead of making it up in your office, you might realise just how bad your network is. Please, in your non-response,  quote to me how you’re the most “ontime network in the country”. This is bullshit. The only reason this is true is because you cancel any train which is 4 minutes late mid-journey, therefore fudging the data. I have four years of first hand experience.

The only saving grace was the staff at Maghull station, who every morning and evening on the way home are always cheerful, polite and funny. All of your staff should be subjected to actually travelling on your ‘service’ for a week and then pay a visit to Maghull to learn what customer service with a smile is actually like.

Kudos to you Maghull!

So, after the worst rail journey (twice) I can forewarn you that I promise, when I win the Euromillions I will buy out your company and sack every single person in the head office and leave something very unpleasant on your desk before I do so.

I don’t expect an apology or a response, nor do I want one. What would be the point, nothing would ever change anyway. This is just to let you know that I am one of the thousands who think that most of your staff and your organisational skills are a disgrace. Please take the time to look on Twitter for #Merseyrail #Merseyfail #Miseryrail if you want to hear the real criticisms of your company.

It’s a good job you blocked me on Twitter last year, otherwise your social media staff would have learned a whole new bunch of swearwords.


Kind Regards,

Tony Cliffe

  1. For American readers: Merseyrail is the rail operator serving Merseyside, the area of North-West England surrounding and including the Beatles’ home city of Liverpool.  Its called Merseyside because it is beside the River Mersey 

  2. In other words, the train was half its usual size 

  3. Those who have read James Lockley’s brilliant letter to Ryanair will realise that Tony has borrowed somehwhat from James’ style here 

  4. Mrs. Bulldog-chewing-a-wasp’s love interest, possibly 

  5. Maghull is a town of 20,000 souls north of Liverpool and south of Ormskirk in West Lancashire. The Beatles performed there on just one occasion at the Albany Cinema in October 1961. That apart, the town is known for nothing at all. 

  6. For American readers: A Freddo is a chocolate frog manufactured by Cadburys. It was invented in 1930 by Harry Melbourne, an 18-year-old moulder employed by MacRobertson’s, an Australian confectionery company.  It would have been a pool of liquid in that heat 

  7. Twattery isn’t a real word, but it probably should be 

  8. Twatwaffles isn’t a real word either – but should be. It’s even better than Twattery 

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