Statement by Leader of Stockport Council on rail network issues

Cllr Alex Ganotis expresses major concerns over the extremely poor rail service standards passengers have had to endure in the past couple of months.

In letters to Arriva Rail North and Transport for Greater Manchester, Cllr Ganotis has called for an immediate solution to Northern Rail’s poorly designed timetable, with its delivery seeing many trains across the north either being cancelled or severely delayed.

Together with the region’s civic leaders and businesses, Cllr Ganotis also signed an open letter to the Prime Minister Theresa May calling on the government to grant full powers to the region to manage its rail infrastructure.

Stockport already boasts excellent connectivity and its rail service plays a critical role in connecting the town centre with the rest of the borough and the region.

It’s also the Council’s ambition to make it easier for everyone to travel around the area whether by rail, bus, bike, foot or car, as identified in the South East Manchester Multi-Modal Strategy.

However, whereas passenger numbers are forecast to continue their decades-long rise, Northern’s timetable has caused trains to be overcrowded and no assurances have been given this will be rectified. In addition, the timetable also creates unacceptable gaps in service, with all stations suffering from gaps in peak time services of up to 45 minutes.

For many people, the latest timetable makes travel by train simply impractical, with a likely increase in people choosing to travel by car along already congested roads across the region, including the overcrowded A6 and A34 corridors.

Throughout Arriva Northern’s consultation phase on their May 18 timetable changes, the Council provided detailed comments from officers, as did many residents and businesses on the impact of these changes. However, when the timetable rewrite was produced this appeared to reflect little, if any, of this feedback.

Cllr Ganotis said: “The issues on the rail network we’ve seen in the last few weeks are completely unacceptable. The new timetable requires people to either travel earlier than required, and for people with children this means incurring additional childcare costs or alternatively travelling late.

“The timetable is also a particular issue for local schools whose pupils rely on the rail services and who have raised specific safeguarding concerns. Many students travel a considerable distance into Stockport and the gap in the timetable requires them to arrive very early in the morning before the schools are open. It appears that Northern gave little or no concern to the convenience or welfare of the travelling public when creating this timetable.

“Furthermore, the emergency timetable Northern brought in has reduced service levels still further, and does not represent a sustainable solution.

“This situation has led to significant disruption and inconvenience. Many people are employed by small businesses that simply don’t have sufficient staff to be able to offer flexible working arrangements. We have already received several letters from residents stating that they will now have to revert to car travel into the city centre.

“It’s also extremely disappointing that Northern were unable to accommodate the suggestions made by officers and residents during the consultation period. This raises the question as to the value of a consultation process that is unable to respond to very clear feedback.”

Cllr Ganotis is also calling for a proper compensation arrangement for all passengers, whether they’re season ticket holders or not, for what they’ve endured in these past weeks.

Council officers will continue to engage with Arriva Rail North to make sure we can secure a long-term commitment to the provision of a decent rail service across Stockport and the region.

To read Cllr Ganotis’ letters in full visit: