Rail passengers in Lancashire were today experiencing delays and cancellations owing to planned leave and "unprecedented levels of sickness."
Rail operator Northern said there were planned cancellations on a number of routes in the North West.
By mid-morning it appeared the Blackpool to Manchester line was also being heavily affected by delays.
The move brought a rebuke from Transport for the North, which is continuing its calls for rail operator Northern to improve its service to passengers.
David Hoggarth, Strategic Rail Director at Transport for the North, said: “We are deeply concerned that, on top of ongoing poor performance and heavy disruption during the first week of the new timetable, Northern is having to cancel hundreds of services in the North West on Christmas Eve and Friday 27 December.
“It is totally unacceptable that passengers once again do not have a full service they can rely on, especially at this busy time of year.
“We have made our concerns clear to Northern and reiterated that passengers deserve better.
"We will continue to monitor performance over the Christmas break and expect to see comprehensive preparations in place to enable a return to a more reliable and robust service as people go back to work in January.”
Planned routes affected were:
Lancaster – Morecambe: A reduced rail service will be in operation and a replacement bus will also be serving the route.
Manchester Piccadilly – Hadfield: A reduced rail service will be in operation.
Liverpool Lime Street – Wigan North Western (stopping service): A bus replacement service will operate every hour.
A Northern spokesman said: "Alongside the annual leave entitlements at this time of the year, we currently have unprecedented levels of sickness.
"That means we expect there to be some pre-planned cancellations on certain lines.
"We are sorry for any disruption customers may face. Please check before you travel.
"We do not cancel services lightly and routes with cancelled services are chosen carefully to minimise the impact on customers.
"On each of the affected routes, our customers will have a range of alternative options available to them including other Northern services, trains run by other operators or rail replacement road transport.
"We are sorry for the inconvenience this will cause our customers. Please check immediately before you travel.
"All the planned cancellations will be fully updated on the Northern website or National Rail Enquiries websites and apps overnight, so customers should check on Tuesday morning for the latest information."
Long-suffering commuters took to social media today to vent their frustration.
Alistair Tait said: "A lot of passengers are also sick. Time to cancel franchise."
Russ Waring said: “It’s #Northernfail, when isn’t there a problem? “
Anyone whose journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more can apply for compensation via Delay Repay.
The North’s leaders, as part of Transport for the North’s Rail North Committee, are to meet in Leeds on January 8 to discuss the issues and way forward, and have called for senior leaders from both operators to attend.
They have previously recommended to the Secretary of State that an Operator of Last Resort for the Northern franchise would help restore public confidence.
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