Photo: Southport MP John Pugh
MPs alarmed at Freedom of Information revelations in drive to save direct train services to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport
MPs with constituencies served by the Southport to Manchester Airport rail service have seen transcripts of e-mails relating to the threatened closure of the direct link to Piccadilly and the airport, some of which have been described by Southport’s MP, John Pugh, as “not very clever”.
The plan to direct all services through Manchester Victoria – which would mean trains no longer stopping at Deansgate, Oxford Rd, Piccadilly and the Airport – has caused concern and outrage among those who regularly travel to Manchester city centre for work, education and business and who use the Airport. Currently Manchester bound services alternate between Victoria and Piccadilly (& the Airport), but because rail chiefs want to run new services from other towns to the airport, commuters from Southport to Wigan face losing direct train links to Deansgate , Oxford Rd, Piccadilly stations.
MPs, John Pugh (Southport), Rosie Cooper (West Lancs) , Lisa Nandy (Wigan) and Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) are due to meet train operator Arriva Northern and other rail industry chiefs this Friday (1st July) to discuss proposed route changes that would see the Piccadilly-Airport link being axed from Dec 2017. At the meeting Arriva Northern will be asked to explain how such a change to a long-established service is happening without any consultation of those using the service. The MPs will be demanding a solution to the problem be found.
Arriva announced the changes, which are set to come into force in December 2017, soon after winning the contract for the former Northern Rail franchise.
Southport’s MP, John Pugh, has been working to improve the quality of the service to Manchester said: “Arriva made lots of encouraging noises during the tendering process a year ago. When it won the franchise we were hit with the bombshell of the Airport service being axed in Dec 2017, with Arriva saying it was not their fault.
“The truth is that there are fingerprints all over this decision – rail industry decision makers, civil servants, transport authority planners.
“Freedom of Information requests reveal some interesting threads and to be honest some on the comments I’ve seen aren’t very ‘clever’ – certain officials flippantly ducking and weaving the issue rather than acknowledging that there is a problem that needs addressing.
“Not even bothering to consult with commuters could be construed as the height of arrogance but I think actually it’s the sign of a decision that’s been poorly thought through right from the start.
“This meeting on 1st July is a chance to start thinking about the needs of commuters and air travellers who face their return Journeys being extended by a totally impractical and unsuitable change at Salford Crescent. I and my parliamentary colleagues are looking for Arriva and rail industry chiefs to think about solving this problem, a problem that shouldn’t really have come about in the first place.”
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