Thousands of commuters suffered rush hour delays at Manchester Victoria station after an angry rail passenger shouted at a member of staff, prompting a walkout.
Staff reportedly walked off the concourse of the busy station due to safety concerns at around 5pm on Thursday, sparking lengthy delays for several hours in the evening.
The incident that sparked the walkout was initially described as an assault, according to reports, but it emerged that an angry passenger had shouted at a member of staff after being given the wrong information several times.
The incident comes just days after chaos caused by new train timetables, leading to calls for north of England operator Northern to be stripped of its franchise.
Manchester Victoria now, all trains cancelled and stuck here. No wonder people drive everywhere. pic.twitter.com/92lMqnh9UZ
— Tim (@xDronee) December 19, 2019
One witness said that the man who shouted was a new father of a 10-week old baby and had also recently had an operation on his foot, the Manchester Evening News reported.
“He was placed on three wrong trains and then when the right one came, he was on the wrong platform, so when he asked a member of staff to help him they said ‘get a job’,” she said.
She said the man had voiced his discontent and had shouted, but so had the majority of people struggling to complete their journeys.
At the time Northern described the incident as a “disturbance” while one union boss reportedly said that staff had “removed themselves from a position of danger due to an unacceptable level of threats and abuse”.
Platform scenes as “serious threat of violent assault” causes staff walkout at Manchester Victoria. pic.twitter.com/YZYF6su6Hq
— Chris McKeon (@cjmckeon) December 19, 2019
The incident coincided with a points failure nearby as well as delays at Manchester Piccadilly station due to a broken down train, leading to lengthy delays for commuters across the city.
Commuter Paul Metcalfe shared a picture of crowded platforms at Manchester Piccadilly, saying: “This is about as bad as it gets tonight. Severe delays at Manchester Piccadilly due to earlier broken down train. I'm told by a member of Network Rail crew that staff @ Victoria have walked out because of the state of travel at the moment.”
The incident sparked debate on Twitter, with many supporting staff and saying they shouldn’t bear the brunt of people’s anger over travel chaos.
Jen Dudley wrote: “The staff at #manchesterpiccadilly were amazing last week under extreme conditions caused by drunk people which shouldn't be part of their job. Good on #ManchesterVictoria for taking a stand at unnecessary and inappropriate behaviour.”
To the specific individual that decided to abuse a member of railway staff whilst they are in a safety critical job role, I hope karma comes and bites back at you very harshly. #ManchesterVictoria
— Joshua Leuty (@joshualeuty96) December 20, 2019
I am in full support of the actions of railway staff at #ManchesterVictoria this evening. None of us go to work only to be abused and then not feel safe when doing a job. The right course of action of walking out was certainly taken this evening given the circumstances.
— Joshua Leuty (@joshualeuty96) December 19, 2019
However, others were less sympathetic, saying staff should have let security deal with the problem then helped the thousands of other passengers complete their journeys.
Ted&Tedski wrote: “#ManchesterVictoria sorry guys but don’t you just let security sort it out and provide the service the other 99.9% paid for? For the many not the one.”
#ManchesterVictoria sorry guys but don't you just let security sort it out and provide the service the other 99.9% paid for? For the many not the one.
— Ted&Tedski (@tedandtedski) December 20, 2019
On Monday - the first working day of new train timetables - Northern faced widespread calls for it to be stripped of its franchise after blaming train faults, driver sickness and signalling problems for delays and cancellations.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the “chaos and misery” suffered by Northern passengers has “gone on far too long”.
He said: “As a first step, it should strip Northern of its franchise. That would send a clear signal to all rail operators – notably TransPennine Express – that we will not accept a second-class rail service for people in the North.”