Pressure on train company to retain popular service

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MPs are piling pressure on a train company to retain a popular commuting route after research showed passenger numbers are up.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Makerfield parliamentary representative Yvonne Fovargue said the increased demand at stations along the Southport to Manchester route should be noted by Arriva and showed the need for more investment.

The increasing numbers of people using both Gathurst and Appley Bridge stations show how ludicrous the proposals to end direct services to Manchester Piccadilly are.

Lisa nandy MP

Consultations are currently ongoing about potentially switching the final destination of services coming through Wallgate to Manchester Victoria, rather than Piccadilly or the airport.

However, the latest estimates on station use released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows the current arrangements are attracting growing numbers of Wiganers on to the railways.

Wigan Wallgate and Atherton saw drops in passenger numbers in 2015-16 compared to 2014-15 but elsewhere in the borough demand for the trains rose.

Some of the most significant increases were seen on Northern’s route, with 247,246 uses of Appley Bridge station in 2015-16 compared to 243,034 in the previous 12-month period.

Use of Hindley station rose for 333,462 from 331,128 and Ince went up from 19,684 entrances and exits to 21,150. There was also a slight rise at Gathurst to 86,976 from 86,050.

Ms Nandy said: “The increasing numbers of people using both Gathurst and Appley Bridge stations show how ludicrous the proposals to end direct services to Manchester Piccadilly are.

“Passengers should not be taken for granted and these figures demonstrate the very real need to retain the direct link to Piccadilly.

“I am continuing to work with passenger groups and other MPs and we are hopeful that Northern and the Department for Transport will see sense and ensure the service continues.”

Ms Fovargue said: “The figures demonstrate the popularity of our local stations, in particular Hindley.

“That is why we need to continue investment in the rail infrastructure and services to make train travel a realistic option for people getting to and from work and also for leisure.”

In response route operator Northern said it was continuing to try to find a way forward that would be most acceptable.

A spokesman said: “We are aware of the concerns of those who use the Southport to Manchester line and value the ongoing discussion about the proposed changes to the services. We aspire to provide excellent customer service and a significant part of this is listening to the views of our passengers and gathering as much feedback as possible about proposals across the Northern network.

“In line with this, we remain in contact with key stakeholders and customer groups and will continue to work with them to fully explore all possible options.”

The borough’s two biggest stations saw large fluctuations in journey numbers. Wallgate’s entrances and exits fell significantly to 1,576,106 from the 2014-15 mark of 1,637,478.

North Western, meanwhile, saw a spike in journeys being made, with 1,380,716 exits and entrances in 2015-16 compared to 1,282,076 in the previous period.

This could be partly explained by a long period of engineering works between Bolton and Manchester which saw some services which would normally run through Wallgate being re-routed through North Western.

Atherton also saw a slight decrease in overall journey numbers, with 436,000 exits and entrances in 2015-16 and 441,830 in 2014-15.

The figures are only an estimate of how popular the railways are because not every station in the country has gates for travellers to get in and out.

The statistics also record only the total number of entrances and exits made and do not take into account how many journeys are made by an individual passenger.