The Department for Transport has been told “Hands Off” Southport’s direct rail service to Manchester Piccadilly service by a group of local councillors.

The Manchester Task Force, led by the Department for Transport and Network Rail, is currently running a consultation giving people three options over how the network can best cope with  increasing levels of change from the pre-COVID service patterns.

All three options call for changes could lead to Southport services no longer calling at stations to the south of the city including Piccadilly, Deansgate and Oxford Road, instead being directed by Manchester Victoria in the north of the city. 

People in Southport are being urged to reply to the consultation and answer ‘no change’.

Southport BID, rail campaign group OPSTA (Ormskirk Preston Southport Travellers Association), Southport Pleasureland owner Norman Wallis and others are calling for local people to respond to the consultation and ask for current levels of service between Southport and Manchester to be either maintained or improved.

Southport’s Labour councillors believe that the consultation presents a “stacked deck” against the town, as all of the options it offers result in the removal of the vital direct route.

They have now launched a petition which accuses the government and the Department for Transport of treating Southport unfairly.

Petition organisers Councillors Greg Myers and Gordon Friel are hoping that a united front can be presented to the DfT and are calling local residents, business groups and politicians from all parties to back their call to help stave off the threat to the service.

Norwood Councillor Greg Myers said: “This is not the first time that the government and the Department of Transport have tried by less than transparent methods to deprive Southport of this vital rail link. 

 “It simply beggars belief that after a very hard-fought campaign for a number of years only which only recently saw the service fully reinstated, the DfT is back again trying it on. 

“We’d ask all local residents to sign the petition and give a loud ‘Hands Off!’ to the DfT.”

Cllr Gordon Friel, who is Sefton Council’s transport representative on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said: “We are calling on the local authority and the Combined Authority to join us in this message and are confident they will, and we would appeal to local politicians across the divide to join us and sign the petition. Southport deserves nothing less than a united front on this.”

The petition already has support from local councillors Carran Waterfield, Mhairi Doyle, Janis Blackburne and Sean Halsall and also the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association (OPSTA).

OPSTA Chair Alan Fantom said the service was: “Probably the only route to have justified itself with a full business case in the last three years and in all three options in the consultation it will be the only one to be removed entirely.

“It is further evidence our region and travel requirements are not considered important by the rail industry and can be easily dismissed. We must again make our voices heard! OPSTA encourages all to sign whether you are a regular user of Manchester services or only depend on the train occasionally.”

The petition can be found here: 

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