The Department for Transport has been told “Hands Off” Southport’s direct rail service to Manchester Piccadilly by a group of local councillors.
The call comes in an online petition which states that a DfT consultation on rail services is a “stacked deck” against the town, as all of the options it offers result in the removal of the vital direct route.
The petition, which is supported by all of the town’s Labour councillors, and local rail group OPSTA, accuses the government and DfT of treating the town unfairly, stating:
“A new consultation to “improve” rail service in the North offers three options BUT each means the removal of Southport’s vital direct service to Manchester Piccadilly. That means the DfT is essentially offering ZERO choice in this matter for Southport and certainly no improvement.”
“It’s not a consultation, it’s a stacked deck.” This is not the first time the DfT has employed such tactics either.”
Petition organisers Councillors Greg Myers and Gordon Friel are hoping that a united front can be presented to the DfT and are calling local residents, business groups and politicians from all parties to back their call to help stave off the threat to the service, including the town’s Conservative MP.
Norwood Councillor Greg Myers explained:
“This is not the first time that the government and the Department of Transport have tried by less than transparent methods to deprive Southport of this vital rail link. In 2018 it was exposed in the House of Commons for trying to deliberately deceive local residents and commuters over its plans to remove this service.”
“It simply beggars belief that after a very hard-fought campaign for a number of years only which only recently saw the service fully reinstated, the DfT is back again trying it on.”
“We’d ask all local residents to sign the petition and give a loud ‘Hands Off!’ to the DfT.”
Cllr Gordon Friel, who is Sefton Council’s transport representative on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, added:
“We are also calling on the local authority and the Combined Authority to join us in this message and are confident they will, and we would appeal to local politicians across the divide including the town’s Conservative MP to join us and sign the petition. Southport deserves nothing less than a united front on this.”
The petition already has support from local councillors Carran Waterfield, Mhairi Doyle, Janis Blackburne and Sean Halsall and also the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association (OPSTA), whose Chair Alan Fantom gave it full backing, commenting that the service was:
“Probably the only route to have justified itself with a full business case in the last three years and in all three options in the consultation it will be the only one to be removed entirely.”
“It is further evidence our region and travel requirements are not considered important by the rail industry and can be easily dismissed. We must again make our voices heard! OPSTA encourages all to sign whether you are a regular user of Manchester services or only depend on the train occasionally.
The petition can be found here: https://www.change.org/HandsOffSouthport-ManchesterPiccadilly