A Northern Rail Pacer Train at Southport Railway Station. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

People have until 11.59pm tonight (Wednesday 10 March) to submit your views over a consultation which could see Southport lose vital rail links to Manchester

Business leaders, politicians, rail users and local residents have united in their opposition to the idea. 

Manchester Task Force and led by the Department for Transport and Network Rail sought views on proposals for the future of train services across the Greater Manchester region but has been met with anger as all three options would see the Southport-Manchester Piccadilly link axed, which would also deny access to commuters to Deansgate and Manchester Oxford Road railway stations. 

People are being presented with three options by the Manchester Rail Task Force, led by the Department for Transport and Network Rail, that feature increasing levels of change from the pre-COVID service patterns.

The three options offered would all see Southport services directed to Manchester Victoria in the north of the city. However, around two-thirds of regular commuters from Southport rely on the south side service which offers access to businesses, hospitals and onward connections to multiple other destinations, including Manchester Airport.

People responding to the consultation are being asked to reply No to all three options and to ask for current services to remain. 

Scheduled to be introduced in May 2022, they aim to “significantly improve overall reliability”. 

Southport BID CEO Rachel Fitzgerald said: “The decision by Manchester Rail Task Force to run this consultation during the middle of a national lockdown in the Covid pandemic, when the usual train services are not running and the vast majority of rail passengers are at home, is extremely disappointing.

“Normally, a consultation like this would record the views of thousands of rail users on board the trains between Southport and Manchester. 

“With the current lockdown in place, lots of commuters and other passengers won’t even know that their rail service is under threat, until it is too late.

“We are asking all of the local businesses in Southport and everyone else in our town to give your views on this consultation. It is important that people’s voices are heard.”

The MPs for Southport and West Lancashire, Lancashire County Council and rail campaign group OPSTA are all calling for the direct train lines to be saved between Southport and the south of Manchester city centre.

Southport Conservative MP Damien Moore; West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper; Lancashire County Council Leader Cllr Geoff Driver; and Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Traveller’s Association spokesperson Alan Fantom have written to the Manchester Task Force and to the Minister of State for Railways Chris Heaton-Harris arguing against the “simply unacceptable” proposals.

In a letter to the taskforce, the group said: “We understand proposals have been developed by a ‘Manchester Recovery Task Force’ to enable train operators to ‘Improve Performance’ by reducing the number of rail services running through the very congested central Manchester network.

“The consultation asks, “Do you support the aim of standardising and simplifying service patterns if this will significantly improve overall train performance?” offering three ‘options’. All three options propose the withdrawal of the direct Southport to Manchester Piccadilly service, which would mean the Southport line would be the only one to lose an entire route. This is simply unacceptable.

“Any solution must be holistic and based on an objective 360-degree assessment of specific travel requirements into Manchester that has recognised each of the five city centre stations serves as a destination in its own right according to travel purpose.

“The options proposed in the consultation document make it apparent that the term ‘standardising’ is being used to mean route rationalisation which is one but not the only way of “reducing the number of services” as it is stated in the consultation description.

“Consequently, the approach taken to meeting this objective appears not to consider meeting travel requirements to be the most important critical success factor and creates a significant gap in the routes offered that will affect at least 500,000 of the North West population.”

Southport Labour councillor Greg Myers has set up an online petition and is asking people to add their names to it

He said: “This consultation closes tonight at 11.59pm. Led by the government’s own Department for Transport via its role in the Manchester Rail Recovery Taskforce, it pretends to offer choice but actually offers none for Southport.

“Please respond to it and sign our petition against it.      

“The damage the closure would inflict could undo much of the excellent work put in by the Town Deal Board and Sefton Council in securing the funding. It makes no sense at all.

“That’s why the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor has strongly backed our campaign and Sefton Council and the Liverpool City Region Transport Committee have firmly rejected the proposals.” 

Co-organiser Councillor Gordon Friel said: “It’s also why 1,200 people so far have signed our OPSTA-backed petition but we need as many people as possible to sign and share the petition today, and to also respond ‘No Change’ to the consultation.”

“Time is running out to ensure that the Department for Transport understands it cannot treat Southport so unfairly.” 

 

Please respond “No Change” to the consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/timetable-options-to-improve-rail-performance-in-the-north-of-england

Do you have any stories for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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