Blackpool MPs call for action over train cancellations

The work on the Preston to Blackpool North line earlier this year
The work on the Preston to Blackpool North line earlier this year

Both of Blackpool’s MPs have challenged rail operator Northern over the trains crisis.

Paul Maynard and Gordon Marsden have pressed Northern’s regional director Sharon Keith to improve the situation which has seen cancellations and at most two trains an hour in the wake of delayed electrification work.

Mr Maynard said: “It is not acceptable that passengers should continue to suffer short-notice cancellations.

“I have asked for regular updates from Northern and for the company to speak with frequent travellers who are now in their seventh month of significant disruption.

"Northern has advised me a significant number of drivers have now been trained on the new railway and I hope new agreements can be reached with ASLEF to accelerate this process.”

He added they promised that direct trains to Leeds and York from Blackpool will be restored later this year.

He added: “Network Rail has told me section-proving work on the overhead lines is now taking place and is set to be ready for passenger use by May 20.”

Gordon Marsden said driver training on the new route should have been better organised. He said: “It is not good enough to just offer classroom training as they had , drivers need experience on the line.

"I asked about the current state of driver training and she said about 70 per cent were now up to speed.”

He also criticised the state of the service for disabled travellers as some replacement buses were not accessible.

He added: “If there is another fiasco on May 20 ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend it will be disastrous and there will be a clamour for the Government to do something about the franchise.”

Meanwhile, a Blackpool campaigner for better rail services for disabled people has welcomed the Government’s review into rail fares.

Stephen Brookes MBE said the current system of having to hunt for best deals was unfair on vulnerable people.

He said: “In my role as the Minister for Disabled Peoples rail sector champion I endorse and support the process of simplification of rail fares.

“The current confusion of having to know where to get best deals and different prices has a particular negative effect on disabled and older people.

"I believe that the involvement of groups from across the country, both in rural and urban areas is essential in achieving change, and am in my role working on the positive outcomes of disabled people in face to face groups with train operator companies.”

His comments follow the announcement that the The Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, is to have a public consultation to make ticketing fairer and easier to use.

The group admitted there were about 55 million different fares existing in the current system. It also admitted passengers are not always offered the cheapest fare available. The group will work with passenger watchdog, Transport Focus, on the review next month.