Delivering two trains an hour to Manchester as promised by rail bosses is a priority Government has admitted, after Tatton MP Esther McVey demanded action and an end to excuses.
Ms McVey said she had heard excuses from Northern and Network Rail as to why the upgrade included in the train operators’ franchise bid in 2015 had been delayed – but now wanted answers and solutions.
Speaking in Parliament she said: “Northern won the franchise for Mid Cheshire line and in its bid it was to see an increase in connectivity between my constituency and Manchester from one to two trains an hour, it was meant to happen in 2017 and now we are mid way through 2019 and it has not happened. I have heard excuses from Northern, from Network Rail but what can the minister do to ensure that this happens, no more excuses, and this line frequency occurs?”
Rail Minister Andrew Jones said he understood frustrations of residents waiting for the service improvement and delivering the extra service was a priority.
In response to Ms McVey he added: “She is a great champion for commuters in her area. In terms of this service, there is a commitment in the franchise to deliver additional services on the Mid-Cheshire line but this has also proved to be very operationally challenging because of capacity issues in the area, particularly around Manchester and through Stockport. While I want to see the additional service delivered as soon as possible this cannot be done at the expense of performance and delivering a railway passengers can rely upon is the absolute priority, all options are being looked at to deliver these additional services and I will keep the House fully updated with progress and it will be a priority for me.”
After Northern won the Mid Cheshire Line franchise bid in 2015 it promised the extra train an hour, which was due to begin in December 2017. It has been dogged with delays and earlier this year Transport Secretary Chris Grayling wrote to Ms McVey saying he had been advised by the Rail North Partnership that the proposals had been postponed, as both Northern and Network Rail believe additional paths cannot be accommodated without “adversely affecting the reliability of other services on the network.”
Ms McVey added: “I am delighted Andrew Jones said options are being looked at and he will keep me informed. This extra capacity was promised and my constituents deserve a better rail service and I will keep pushing for this to make sure it happens.”
In the exchange during Transport Questions Ms McVey also thanked the minister for funding to improve accessibility at Handforth station, which was appreciated by the community and community groups who have been campaigning for the improvements.