Family's safety fears after they leave 'ridiculously packed' Sunderland train

A family have raised safety concerns for train passengers after a traumatic experience on an overcrowded service.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 1:31 pm
A Northern train.

Mum Susan Ainslie has criticised rail operator Northern after her mother-in-law suffered a panic attack and her son fainted while travelling in a packed carriage at the weekend.

She says passengers were allowed to get on when the train was already very full to the point where there was no space to move.

The family, who were travelling to Newcastle for a day out, pulled the emergency stop when 11-year-old Harry collapsed unconscious and abandoned their trip at Sunderland before returning home.

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Ian and Susan Ainslie with son Harry.

They have spoken out and are calling for changes to protect other rail users.

The train company has apologised and says it always operates within safety regulations, although it admits it is sometimes difficult to stop passengers getting on.

Susan, her husband Ian, children Harry and Sophie, 15, and mother-in-law Diane boarded the 10.01am service to Newcastle at Hartlepool on Saturday, December 4.

She said the train was already quite full and they had to stand near the doors.

The Ainslie family: Dad Ian, Sophie, 15, Susan and Harry, 11.

But Susan, 43, from Hartlepool, said more passengers were allowed on at Horden and Seaham stations.

She said: “The train was now ridiculously packed with passengers. There was no space move.”

Susan said there was also no windows open.

Diane, who is a pensioner with health conditions, started to feel unwell and had a panic attack. Another passenger kindly gave her his seat.

The Ainslies were forced to abandon their train journey at Sunderland railway station.

Harry, a pupil at Hartlepool’s High Tunstall College of Science, then started to feel unwell and went pale.

Susan, a primary school teacher, said: “Suddenly, he collapsed, his eyes rolled back in his head, he went limp and fell unconscious.

"He was totally unresponsive. We pulled the emergency stop handle.

"I was unable to get to Harry because there were so many people.”

Luckily, Ian, a serving member of the RAF, is first aid trained and managed to revive Harry.

Susan also praised passengers who moved round to give Harry a seat.

But she added: “This was a frightening experience.

"If someone had a heart attack there would be no way to administer first aid because there was no space.

"It is a tragedy waiting to happen."

Susan says she has been told of several similar experiences from friends and on social media.

She has contacted the town’s MP Jill Mortimer and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen about their trauma.

Susan added: “We would like to see the capacity of the trains regulated by the train company.

“I really don’t want anyone else to go through what we went through.”

Kerry Peters, regional director at Northern, said: "I am sorry for Mrs Ainslie's experience on one of our services over the weekend.

"At this time of year services across the network are often busier than normal.

"We are operating as many carriages as possible and are encouraging customers to plan their journey in advance and allow extra time.

"We always operate in full adherence with safety regulations and whilst some services may be busy there is unfortunately limited options to reduce the number of passengers boarding at various points in a service."