Majority polled say bus replacement timetables are unrealistic

Undated file image of engineers carrying out rail electrification work
Undated file image of engineers carrying out rail electrification work
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Eighty-five per cent of almost 300 people surveyed by The Gazette yesterday said Northern Rail’s replacement bus timetables are not realistic.

It comes as Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said he would be contacting the rail firm with his own concerns.

A fleet of 20 new buses, run by Blackpool Transport, will ferry commuters between Blackpool North, Blackpool South and Preston from next month, when four-month-long electrification work gets underway.

Trains currently take around 27 minutes to get from Blackpool North to Preston, but it will take up to 65 minutes by bus – with just 20 minutes scheduled between Poulton and Kirkham – including the rush hour.

Tory rail minister Mr Maynard, speaking in his capacity as MP, said commuters need ‘to have confidence in the rail replacement bus service from the first day’.

“I do have concerns over the rail replacement timetable and, as MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, have contacted Northern to question the published schedule,” he said. “I am extremely concerned the timings, in rush hour conditions, may not be achievable, leading to missed connections and unnecessary inconvenience for travellers.

“I would urge Blackpool Transport to test the proposed route in rush hour conditions well head of the start of the blockade and report back to Northern on their findings.”

Northern said it has timed its temporary schedule after carrying out test runs on the eight-mile route and said it is ‘realistic and accurate’, while Blackpool Transport said it would be carrying out a trial run itself. But commuters, taxi firms, and MPs all voiced their alarm – and called for a rethink.

One commuter from Cleveleys added: “Northern Rail must be replacing their trains with helicopters because that is the only way you will get from Poulton to Kirkham in 20 minutes during rush hour. “I understand the line needs upgrading but the replacement bus timetable is not realistic during busy periods.

A Northern spokesman said: “We have researched the times taken to travel between the various stations and have carried out ‘dry runs’ at peak times to ensure our timetables are both realistic and accurate.”