Rail campaigners meet with Northern in bid to restore Wigan trains link

Rail campaigners representing Wigan are set to meet with operator Northern and a government body after MP Lisa Nandy revealed bombshell e-mails in Parliament regarding ongoing trains chaos.

Thursday, 28th June 2018, 9:35 am
Updated Friday, 29th June 2018, 8:02 pm
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy with the bombshell e-mails in Parliament

Talks are set to take place between the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) in Manchester this Friday after leaked messages showed the diversion of Wigan trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Victoria was known about in late 2015

The discussions with Northern and the Rail North Partnership, which focus on restoring the connection for Wigan stations to Piccadilly, were suspended last August, say OPSTA, who will be joined by the Southport Rail Transport Forum (SRTF).

And campaign groups claim they are taking on the challenge because local councils and transport authorities failed to adequately confront the Department for Transport and Network Rail over the controversial May timetable changes, which have sparked the current crisis.

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Alan Fantom, OPSTA chairman, said: "The campaigners are driven by a recognition of the adverse impact on the many households and the economic importance of this service, carrying hundreds of commuters a day into the heart of Manchester’s professional services core and its universities."

Mr Fantom and his opposite number on the SRTF, Eric Woodcock, say the only commitment given so far over restoring the Piccadilly link came from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, in response to Southport MP Damien Moore, when he pledged to get "some services" transferred away from Victoria.

But Mr Fantom said: "Some is not enough. We will be looking for a solid, public commitment to restore the Southport to Manchester Piccadilly direct service with a plan and timeframe for achieving this.

"OPSTA and SRTF have already produced a business case which proves that the route is viable and profitable and there is no technical or operational reason why it cannot be restored.

Earlier this week Labour and the Transport Secretary clashed over who was responsible for the public transport debacle, which has seen hundreds of Wigan services delayed or cancelled, and the introduction of temporary timetables for the region.

He told Radio 4 he "did not run the railways" and indicated the fault lay with northern officials. Opposition politicians claimed Mr Grayling refused to grant them such powers last December.