Fears rush-hour traffic could lead to travel chaos for commuters were realised yesterday, as passengers on the rail replacement service missed connections and were late for work.
With the Blackpool North to Preston rail line out of action for 19 weeks, a tight rail replacement bus timetable had already raised eyebrows.And yesterday morning, those aboard the 8am double decker Palladium bus vented their frustration as it arrived at Preston 17 minutes over the expected 65-minute journey time.
Hannah Rose, 18, from Fleetwood, said she caught the service recommended to her by her journey planner smart phone app – which should have left her with a 13-minute gap at Preston.
But as the double-decker still sat in traffic at 9.17am, when the first of her two connecting trains was scheduled to leave, the Keele University student said: “I will have to wait an hour for the next one. I will have to wait at Crewe as well.”
Meghan Lewis, also from Fleetwood, said she too faced a lengthy wait at Preston after missing the 9.17am connecting train.
The 20-year-old, who studies maths at Coventry University, said the replacement bus had already added ‘30 to 45 minutes’ on to her two-and-a-half hour trip, and added: “I can imagine it affecting a lot of people worse than me, like people trying to get to work.”
Retired university lecturer Alan Hurst, 72, from Poulton, added: “I think the journey has been terrific, and the information that has been provided is fantastic.
“The problem is the traffic at this time. I travel to London regularly on the 9.58am from Preston, and the advertised bus from Poulton was 9am.
“Had I not caught this [8am] service, I would have missed my connection.”
Meanwhile Katie Ball, 19, from Thornton, boarded the service at Poulton, and sat helplessly as the clock ticked past 9am – when she was due to start her shift at Thomas Cook in Preston.
“It’s just a bit annoying,” she said, though she said her boss was ‘understanding’.
Last month, 84 per cent of 640 people surveyed said they believed the new timetables – which left just 20 minutes to get from Poulton to Kirkham and 25 to get from Kirkham to Preston – were unrealistic.
Despite calls for a rethink, Northern Rail said it had carried out test runs on the eight-mile route and its schedule was ‘realistic’.
A spokesman for Northern said: “We have planned carefully for the engineering work on the Blackpool to Preston line. We know that, despite this careful planning, some rail replacement services may encounter delays as a result of heavy traffic or other potential issues. With this is mind we will have buses on standby along the route to support our timetabled services.
“Throughout the engineering work we will constantly monitor and review our rail replacement plans to ensure they are providing the best possible service, and we are grateful for the initial feedback from customers.”