COMPLAINTS against rail operator Northern rose by 300 per cent year-on-year at the end of 2018, new figures show.

The Office of Rail and Road's statistics show that complaints against Northern – which runs the Mid Cheshire Line through Northwich and Knutsford – rose with punctuality and reliability remaining the biggest problem, accounting for 40 per cent of customer gripes.

Total complaints rose from 13 complaints per 100,000 journeys in the three months leading up to December 31, 2017, to 52 complaints per 100,000 journeys for the same period in 2018.

And, while Northern has improved its complaint handling rate with 20 working days, still only 73 percent were answers within this time period compared to 95 per cent or above at Merseyrail, Virgin and West Midlands Trains.

John Oates, chairman of the Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association said: “Whilst MCRUA are pleased to see Northern have improved their back office routines in handing complaints, they remain well below what is expected of them.

“With one in four passengers having to wait a month or more for a response on their complaints, it is not surprising passengers are frustrated with Northern’s attitude to customer satisfaction.

“These poor figures follow on from the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, informing local MP Esther McVey, that the Mid Cheshire Line is still yet to receive its two trains an hour and the doubling of services on Sundays promised from December 2017.

“If you are an early morning commuter travelling into Manchester from Northwich or Knutsford, knowing that franchise commitments are being broken and complaints are not being handled properly, it is not surprising you are disappointed with your local rail service.

“Mr Grayling’s letter talks about establishing a better rail service, better rolling stock and improved capacity which is far from what see in Mid Cheshire.

“It is now time for the Department of Transport, Transport for North and rail operator, Northern, to act and give our local rail users the service they deserve.”