Ann Coffey

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Government responds to MP’s concern about commuter hell

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May 9th 2018

Ann Coffey MP has received an assurance from the Government that cuts to train services at Heaton Chapel station will be reversed in time for Christmas.

Ms Coffey, MP for Stockport, wrote to the Government expressing concern about cuts in services from May 20 and chaotic timetabling, which threatens dangerous overcrowding on platforms.

Jo Johnson, the rail minister, has now written back to Ms Coffey.

He said:

“Due to unforeseen infrastructure problems the delivery of the Bolton electrification project has been delayed. Network Rail has recently advised us that this project will be delivered during September/October 2018 which will allow for the timetable improvements to take place from December 2018.

“Completion of electrification on the Bolton corridor should see restoration of four trains an hour towards Manchester at these stations.”

Ms Coffey welcomed the reassurance but said:

“I will be monitoring this latest pledge closely.

“It is good that we can see light at the end of the tunnel but until December my constituents will continue to endure commuter hell with unacceptable reductions in services and chaotic timetabling resulting in big gaps at peak periods and the fear of crowd control problems.”

Heaton Chapel, in Ms Coffey’s constituency, is one of the busiest stations within Greater Manchester with over 800,000 passengers per year. Northern rail bosses are devising plans to deal with potential crowds at Heaton Chapel and Levenshulme stations when services at both stations are temporarily cut from four to three trains an hour from May 20 due to delays in the electrification of the Manchester to Preston line.

Ms Coffey said she was disappointed that Mr Johnson’s letter did not properly address all the points in her original letter, particularly the dangers of crowd control problems caused by the bunching up of services. For example, all three trains during the morning rush hour will arrive at the station within a 15 minute window and then there will be a large 49 minute gap between the 8.35 and 9.24 peak morning services.

In his letter Mr Johnson merely admitted: “There are still challenges around the spread of services, which we will be working with Network Rail to attempt to improve.”

Ms Coffey added: “This is rather vague. I will hold the government to this as there are major concerns about the chaotic timings of services and the dangers of overcrowding that poses for local rail users.”

A copy of Ms Coffey’s original letter is available here. Mr Johnson’s response is also available here.