Weekend commuters from Wigan to Bolton have faced almost non-existent Sunday rail services for weeks, shocking data shows.
Beleaguered train operator Northern is once again in the firing line from angry passengers who are finding the railways completely unreliable for getting to work on the Sabbath day.
And their complaints are backed up by appalling figures showing that on the key route between Wigan and Bolton there has not been a single Sunday train running since late September.
The services running from Wigan North Western to Bolton at 8.21am and 9.25am have been cancelled five weeks in a row, as have those later in the morning. And the story gets no better later in the day, with solid rows of cancellations or bus replacement services for trains supposed to be running between 2pm and 10pm.
Over the last 100 days, or slightly more than three months, one afternoon Sunday service has been on time or less than five minutes late just 14 per cent of the time, with two evening ones at the same dismal punctuality level and another at 15 per cent.
The shocking unreliability makes working at destinations which require the Wigan to Bolton train, including the giant Middlebrook retail park near Horwich Parkway station, an extremely stressful affair for Wigan travellers.
Commuters also blasted the company for its policy of saying it has problems with train drivers’ schedules week in and week out while doing nothing about it.
Wiganer Steve Horrobin, who has repeatedly hit out at the crisis-hit firm this year due to his difficulties getting to his job at Middlebrook, said: “Northern can’t run a train service. It’s broken promises and the same old stories.
“They are not sorting the problem out. I am getting tired and ill because I have to work more hours because they are not helping me out. I am going to fall behind on my rent.
“Sunday services seem permanently cancelled and thousands of people are complaining.”
Passengers travelling from Wigan North Western to Manchester Victoria have fared little better, with weeks of cancellations and reliability levels below 25 per cent.
However, those heading that way do at least have the option of going from Wallgate along the Atherton line, which has fared better on Sundays.
Astoundingly, Northern claimed cancellations were “chosen carefully to minimise the impact”, despite the data showing Wigan passengers losing out week after week.
A spokesman said: “Each week, we are having to adjust our Sunday timetable and, as a result, our on-board crew rosters on a small number of routes in the north west.
“There are a number of factors impacting on our ability to run these services, including engineering work and being able to match employees’ availability within their working agreements.
“On affected routes, our customers will have a range of alternatives including other Northern services, trains run by other operators or rail replacement road transport.
“Pre-planned cancellations are advertised via the Northern website each Friday.”
The data comes from the website www.recenttraintimes.co.uk