Council chief weighs in to rail row

Wigan Wallgate
Wigan Wallgate

The chief executive of Wigan Council has spoken to rail bosses amid mounting criticism of proposed route changes.

Town hall boss Donna Hall is looking to arrange a meeting with Arriva Rail North after hundreds of commuters criticised the company’s plan to terminate services running through Wallgate at Manchester Victoria rather than Piccadilly.

Residents’ groups who are unhappy with the idea have been calling for the town hall to get involved, saying the move will leave many Wiganers unable to get to work or facing much longer commutes.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy is among those who have expressed concern about the proposal and the council has now confirmed it will be seeking clarification of what effect the plans will have.

Wigan Council assistant director for planning and transport Mike Worden said: “We work closely with our partner organisations and will be talking to Arriva to confirm the details of their proposal and to reinforce the importance of ensuring we receive good quality, efficient services for the residents of Wigan borough.”

The intervention by the town hall was praised by Standish Voice, which has strongly criticised the proposed changes to the services running between Southport and Manchester and has been calling for Wigan Council to wade into the debate.

The group has also contacted Arriva to express its concerns, saying future housebuilding in Standish will increase demand on the region’s railways.

A Standish Voice spokesman said: “We have strongly objected to proposals to axe through trains from Gathurst and Appley Bridge to Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.

“Many commuters from Standish to Manchester use these stations and if the Southport line service was diminished they may drive instead, increasing congestion.

“With 1,550 homes due to be built in Standish over the next 10 years, services should be increased, not cut.

“Indeed, there are plans to improve bus links from Standish to the Southport line stations when the new houses are built because train travel is seen as a way to reduce car use in Standish.

“This proposal would be bad news for travellers in communities right across the north of the borough.”

Route operator Northern, which is now owned by Arriva, has now also spoken publicly about the changes which are due to be introduced from December 2017.

The operator has sought to calm travellers’ fears, saying ongoing infrastructure projects such as the Ordsall Chord linking Manchester’s stations together would reduce journey times and any changeovers would be kept as short as possible.