I’m working with MPs on a cross-party basis to keep up the pressure on Northern to ensure that the temporary reduction in the Southport - Manchester service gets back to normal as soon as possible.
As a premier coastal town, Southport's economy largely depends on tourism, hospitality and providing activities for visitors. As many Brits are now increasingly staying in the British Isles for their holidays, new opportunities are opening for Southport.
However from 18th May, except for one train too early in the morning and another too late at night, all Southport services will run through Manchester Victoria. Anyone who needs the Piccadilly Line or Manchester Airport will be forced to change at Salford Crescent – including one Southport commuter who won’t be able to pick up his children from nursery anymore.
Working with my constituents, I recently presented to Northern a strong case for keeping the current service. Our town relies on our transport links. We don’t have direct access to a motorway, which makes the Manchester line especially important for those working in the region’s economic hub, as well as those travelling in to explore all our attractions. I felt our case struck the right balance between what people need and what makes business sense for Northern. Unfortunately, they did not respond.
I followed up with the Secretary of State for Transport. Personally, I do not believe that Northern has really justified their decision, but I have been told by Chris Grayling that it is a necessary, temporary solution to the company’s problems electrifying the route between Manchester and Preston. I have also been assured that the Transport Department is working with them to provide additional services to Piccadilly as soon as possible.
As far as I am concerned, however, this must be temporary. It is estimated that 60% of passengers from stations west of Wigan use the current route, whereas around 40% use services towards Victoria.
A permanent disruption would just be too damaging to the region, which is why I’m working with MPs whose constituencies are also affected to keep up the pressure on Northern. Perhaps we need to re-assess how the government awards franchise contracts?
Transport is an important part of my plan for Southport. Our town thrives on the commuters who travel out and the tourists who come in. Northern’s decision is going to frustrate that for some time. With your help, though, I hope to get us back on track.