Fury after MPs meet rail firm

Wigan Wallgate station, where services heading to Manchester could run to Victoria rather than Piccadilly and the airport from December 2017 according to proposals being considered by Arriva
Wigan Wallgate station, where services heading to Manchester could run to Victoria rather than Piccadilly and the airport from December 2017 according to proposals being considered by Arriva

An angry war of words has broken out after MPs met a rail company to discuss proposed route changes opposed by thousands of travellers.

Parliamentary representatives accused Arriva of failing to consult with passengers and not being interested in negotiation following the meeting.

MPs including Wigan representative Lisa Nandy and Makerfield elected member Yvonne Fovargue asked to see rail bosses over plans to run services through Wigan Wallgate to Manchester Victoria rather than along the line to Piccadilly and the airport.

Arriva says it is still open to discussion but angry parliamentarians claim the train company has no intention of saving the route currently used by hundreds of commuters every day.

Ms Nandy said: “This meeting was a chance to reach a compromise but it soon became apparent that Arriva were there to defend the current proposals rather than explore alternative options.

“These plans were drawn up in secret with no public consultation before the bid was granted and I am now working with other MPs to investigate whether this deal complies with regulatory requirements and to consider all available options.”

Ms Fovargue added: “Under these proposals longer journey times and changing trains are the price that my constituents will have to pay and it is not acceptable.

“The meeting was a sham with no attempt to find a solution. I am not prepared to allow passengers from Hindley and Wigan to be the sacrificial lambs for changes to services elsewhere.”

However, a spokesman for route operator Northern said: “We are listening to the concerns of customers whose journeys will be affected by these proposals.

“In discussing this at Friday’s meeting we were also honest about the parameters, laid out in the tender invitation documents, which all the bidders for the Northern franchise had to work to in developing the 2017 timetable for the North West.

“Taking these factors into account mean that all the options identified so far would have implications on other routes and require additional trains to deliver. Where this is the case we would need to work with industry partners before proposing any change.

“We have always said that we will look at all options and we look forward to the follow up meeting.”