Commuters’ fury at rail service change proposals

Arriva has taken over the Northern franchise
Arriva has taken over the Northern franchise

Hundreds of angry Wigan commuters have slammed plans to change the destination of trains heading into Manchester.

Passenger group the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association (Opsta) says its surveys have shown widespread opposition to Arriva Rail North’s proposal to have trains going through Wallgate travelling to Victoria rather than Piccadilly.

Opsta suggests the plan will leave many Wiganers working on the south side of the city centre facing long delays and changes of up to 20 minutes in Bolton during their daily commutes if the plans go ahead.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has already spoken out against Arriva Rail North’s suggestion and residents’ groups and transport organisations have also condemned the possible switch.

Opsta chair Alan Fantom said: “This has really struck a chord with passengers because it’s going to affect their lives so badly. It will have a big impact all over the Wigan area and it’s a big concern. Passenger surveys, counts and research find it will create severe disruption for more than 500 commuters travelling daily from either side of Wigan on direct services to Deansgate, Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations to access their place of work.

“It will also impact the many using the service in both directions throughout the day for business, education and leisure, plus those going to Piccadilly for mainline connections and the airport.”

Opsta found around a quarter of the 300 people who board trains at Hindley travel to stations on the Piccadilly line and 60 per cent of the 1,000 daily commuters boarding between Southport and Gathurst disembark along the route to Piccadilly.

The timetable changes are due to take effect in December 2017 and will be finalised around 12 months beforehand.

The operator has replied to the mounting concern. A spokesman said: “Our thinking so far has been to favour electrically operated trains going through to Piccadilly as there is a wider range of potential destinations beyond Piccadilly than there is beyond Victoria, and this allows for more efficient use of the electric fleet. Operations west of Piccadilly are intensive and complex and will be more so from December 2017.

“We have therefore had to think carefully in prioritising the services that we run through this corridor.”

The franchise operator has promised to listen to commuters’ concerns and says it will enter dialogue before the proposals are finalised.

For more information about Opsta’s campaign, visit www.opsta.org