Rail Task Force strikes fresh doubts over city services

Rail Task Force strikes fresh doubts over city services

by Danielle Thompson (April 2021)

CALLS are again being made for vital rail services between Southport and Manchester to be maintained.

A cross-party group of MPs and community leaders have come together to safeguard essential rail services that serve half-a-million people in the North West.

The MP for Southport, Damien Moore and West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, as well as Lancashire County Council and rail campaign group OPSTA are all calling for the direct train lines between Southport and the south of Manchester city centre to be protected under any review.

The Manchester Task Force, led by the Department for Transport and Network Rail, has just run 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 that 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 the region are being urged to reply to the consultation and object to the proposals.

Southport MP Damien Moore appeared at Prime Minister’s Questions recently, when he asked for “unacceptable” proposals to the line to be scrapped.  He said: “The Prime Minister knows how important that the rail link between Southport and Manchester Piccadilly is for my constituents and for those living in the wider Lancashire area.

“All of the changes put forward by the Manchester Rail Recovery Task Force are unacceptable. They would stop these services from happening and take our levelling up agenda off track.

“Would my Right Honourable Friend (the Prime Minister) meet with me to discuss changes to these proposals so that we can keep this service and keep my constituents with the service they have come to rely on and which is vital to their economy?”

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson replied: “We are investing massively in rail connectivity in his area, in local bus routes, and the particular line that he advocates is one that I know is of great interest to the Secretary of State for Transport and I will make sure he has a chance to discuss this personally with him.”

Damien Moore; Rosie Cooper; Lancashire County Council Leader Cllr Geoff Driver; and Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Traveller’s Association spokesperson Alan Fantom have all written to the Manchester Task Force and to the Minister of State for Railways Chris Heaton-Harris arguing against the “simply unacceptable” proposals.

The campaigners have only just won a fight to save the same line after it was withdrawn in January 2018, with the line only reinstated in December 2019.

They are now warning: “It is quite clear that the Task Forces’ proposals are heavily biased toward the metropolitan communities in and around Manchester, leaving our constituents in Southport and West Lancashire respectively without a direct rail service.”

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