MP continues fight against loss of vital Southport to Manchester rail service

A train at Southport Railway Station
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  • Manchester Recovery Task Force received over 200 responses opposing any cuts to the direct service by Southport residents.
  • Damien Moore MP is determined to build a case for saving the direct Southport to Manchester rail services.

Southport MP Damien Moore is calling for vital Southport to Manchester rail services to be saved to help the North West economy bounce back from the Covid pandemic as restrictions ease.

The Manchester Recovery Task Force, led by the Department for Transport and Network Rail, recently ran a consultation giving people three options over how the busy network in and around Manchester should operate in the future.

All three options put forward suggested the limiting of Southport to Manchester services, with the removal of direct services to stations on the southern side of the city centre including Piccadilly, Deansgate and Oxford Road.

MP Damien Moore has led a campaign calling for the services to be maintained.

He worked with Lancashire County Council, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper and rail campaign group Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OSPTA) to put forward a positive case for the importance of the services.

Mr Moore has also been lobbying Ministers as well as calling on the Metro Mayors for Manchester and Liverpool - who both sit on Transport for the North - to protect services.

The campaign has become even more important after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced on 10 May that further Covid restrictions are set to be eased from today (17 May 2021).  

This will see indoor hospitality, hotels, guest houses, play centres, cinemas, theatres and other attractions allowed to reopen as the seaside resort of Southport looks to enjoy a staycation boom.

Damien Moore MP said: “These are essential rail services which serve half a million people in Southport and across the North West.

“Losing an entire route between Southport and Manchester would be simply unacceptable and that is the case that we have been making in the strongest possible terms to rail operators, Ministers and the Manchester Recovery Task Force.

“In 2019, the year before the pandemic, Southport attracted 9.1million visitors to our town. Thanks to the success of the Southport Town Deal and the exciting plans that are being drawn up as a result, we hope to significantly increase that number. There is a substantial business case for improving rail services, not reducing them.

“This is especially the case as local businesses prepare to finally reopen again and seek to recover from the substantial impact of the Covid pandemic.

“I will continue to fight hard to preserve these vital rail services and hope that a sensible conclusion is reached.”

Damien Moore was previously successful in his campaign to save the same line when it was withdrawn in January 2018, with the line only reinstated in December 2019.

Research discovered that journeys to Manchester were destination specific to one of the five city centre stations for reasons of work, business, study, health, leisure and in the case of Piccadilly connections to the rest of the country. Two thirds of Southport and Lancashire residents travelling to Manchester used and required the south side service.

Southport MP Damien Moore, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, Lancashire County Council leader Cllr Geoff Driver and OPSTA Chair Alan Fanton put forward an alternative option to the consultation: a switch of a Blackpool and Southport service and extension of Wigan North Western peak service to Blackpool which would save the existing services.

OPSTA Chair Alan Fantom said: “The good news for our Manchester services is the return of a full timetable from today (17 May) with trains serving both Piccadilly and Victoria to a schedule very similar to pre pandemic. Northern are also planning to deploy the Class 769 Flex electric trains on all of its Southport Piccadilly / Alderley Edge services and some of the Victoria / Stalybridge services as part of this service uplift.

“It remains unclear, however, what will happen in the future with our services to Manchester. There was a huge response from our area by authorities, business groups and residents to the proposals in the recent consultation by the Manchester Recovery Task Force (MRTF) which comprised well over 200 of the 800 hundred submissions and this certainly had an impact.

“This, and the active support of the MPs for Southport and West Lancashire, has been pivotal in ensuring that our requirements for direct services to Manchester are considered in a new option now under development by the MRTF.

“Nevertheless, there remains a shroud of uncertainty as to what will be brought forward next which is why we cannot take our eye off the ball, and it was good to hear it being restated that anything less than direct services to both Piccadilly and Victoria is unacceptable and we should have a service to Manchester Airport.

“Damien Moore MP has worked closely with OPSTA since he was first elected and collectively, we have been able to state our case cogently directly to the Rail Minister and importantly debunk some of the arguments used for withdrawal of our services.“I welcome our continued collaboration to secure a positive outcome and to build on this and secure improvements to our train services.”