MPs fighting to save the direct rail link between Southport to Manchester Piccadilly were optimistic after meeting newly appointed Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, to discuss the issue last Tuesday.
The meeting in Westminster, arranged by Southport’s MP, John Pugh, with the support of Wigan MPs Lisa Nandy and Yvonne Fovargue, and Bolton West MP Chris Green, was aimed at getting the Minister to understanding why a direct rail service to the south side of Manchester City Centre is so important for passengers on the Southport-Wigan line and to ask for the Department for Transport to give train operator Arriva and planners at Rail North the green light to find a way of retaining the link.
The original plan to end the direct link to Piccadilly in December 2017 – routing all Southport’s trains to Manchester Victoria – was formally announced by train operator Arriva after it took over the Northern rail franchise in April this year. Passengers immediately protested to Arriva bosses but only as recently as July, Arriva infuriated MPs at a meeting convened at the office of West Lancashire MP, Rosie Cooper, saying it could nothing to save the service as its “hands were tied” by the terms of the franchise. A petition set up on 38 Degrees by Lisa Nandy last month to protest against the axing of the service gathered over a thousand signatures in a week.
John Pugh commented: “The Rail Minister was impressed with the cross-party support for the retention of the service and the case presented by Southport Rail Transport Forum and Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association (OPSTA). There has been some really solid work put into this by SRTF and OPSTA since we first heard the rumour nearly two years ago.”
MPs have been contacted by passengers alarmed at the prospect of longer journeys to get into work and changing trains to Piccadilly and the airport. A major concern has been the uncertainty in making a rail connection, especially at busy peak periods in the evening.
John Pugh added: “We seem to have all the organisations – Arriva, Rail North, and now the Department for Transport, on the same page. It’s taken considerable time and effort to get here and, after the emptyhandedness of the 1st July meeting, we should hopefully see some progress towards a resolution of this issue – an issue I’ve said all along shouldn’t have arisen in the first place and which resulted from some poorly conceived decision making by rail planners.“