The CEO of Southport Pleasureland Norman Wallis has spoken out against the planned changes to the town’s rail service and is urging against making any changes which could have “a detrimental effect on Southport”.
The Manchester Task Force, led by the Department for Transport and Network Rail, recently launched a consultation giving people three options over how the network can best cope with increasing levels of change from the pre-COVID service patterns.
All three options call for changes could lead to Southport services no longer calling at stations to the south of the city including Piccadilly, Deansgate and Oxford Road, instead being directed by Manchester Victoria in the north of the city.
People in Southport are being urged to reply to the consultation and answer ‘no change’.
Southport BID and rail campaign group OPSTA (Ormskirk Preston Southport Travellers Association) are leading calls for local people and local businesses to respond to the consultation and ask for current levels of service between Southport and Manchester to be either maintained or improved.
Mr Wallis has submitted his views to the task force. As the owner of a substantial local attraction, in a town which welcomed over 9.1million visitors in 2019, he believes that rail links between Southport and Manchester should be strengthened, not weakened.
He said: “I write in response to the consultation from the point of view as the CEO of a business, and a resident, in Southport.
“Although I am not opposed to changing the way rail services are delivered overall, to improve journeys of those using the rail network across the North West, I cannot give my support to any changes that will have a detrimental impact on Southport.
“Having reviewed the proposed options outlined in the consultation and considering the impact these changes will undoubtedly have on Southport, its residents, and the visitor economy, I must object to all three options.
“The current timetable (pre-COVID) allows for two direct trains from Southport to Manchester – one to Victoria and one to Oxford Road and Piccadilly, providing a direct link to the north and south of the city.
“The residents of Southport rely on these services to commute to their jobs in the city and we, the businesses with a focus on tourism, rely on those services to bring visitors to the town without the need to bring their car.
“Options A and B for the line from Southport to Manchester remove the service to Oxford Road and Piccadilly entirely, meaning that those travelling to and from the town will be forced to travel to/from Victoria and either start or complete their journey by foot, tram or taxi.
“What assurance do rail customers have that services will be timetabled to allow for their arrival in the north of the city with enough time to complete their commute to arrive in time for work in the south of the city (usually 9am)?
“Option C is slightly confusing in that, in the body of the report, the diagram showing the journeys and the text on page 26 it states that there will be a peak only service direct from Southport to Oxford Road. However, in the table of journeys outlined in the detail of the option on page 25 it suggests this would be a service from Wigan to Manchester Oxford Road. My question here would be – which is it?
“If there is to remain a peak only service direct from Southport to Oxford Road that still deprives residents and visitors the option to travel through to Piccadilly and limits the stations being called at as part of the service.
“A further concern with the proposed options is that almost all direct services to/from Manchester Airport will be removed across the entire North West. It is unclear, looking at the three options, how exactly Southport residents’ journeys will be impacted. Will they be able to access the airport from a train at Victoria or would they need to get a train to Victoria where they would then have to walk a mile, or pay for a taxi, to get to Piccadilly for an onward journey to the airport, and vice versa for the return journey?
“The consultation report highlights the potential savings in time for travellers with regards to the delays on the lines from an average delay of 3 minutes under the ‘No Change’ option to 2.5minutes for Option A, 2.3 minutes for Option B and 2.1 minutes for Option C.
“My concern here is that the reduction of services being proposed, with huge ramifications for Southport, appears to have little to no impact on the delays that customers experience.
“In fact, in the table given in the consultation report, even the most radical option (Option C) will not manage to reduce delays by a full minute.
“Southport is a town full of residents who choose to live here knowing that they can commute, relatively easily, into both Liverpool and Manchester for work, with around two-thirds of regular commuters from Southport rely