Blackpool’s transport chief today gave a cautious welcome to Government plans to increase capacity on overcrowded rail services to the resort.
Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin revealed the number of seats on selected services from Blackpool North to Manchester Airport and Manchester Oxford Road would increase in May.
But Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, called the move a “double-edged” sword, with older stock set to replace more modern trains which are being transferred to Cumbria.
Coun Jones added: “The congestion of the Blackpool North to Manchester Airport line really has been a pain for local commuters and travellers over the last few years, and most of us have had to suffer being forced to stand in the aisles for the duration of the 90 minutes it takes to get home. Therefore, having extra capacity on that route is welcome, and I’d like to see those larger trains being used during peak travelling hours when it is busiest.
“However, the Government has dealt Blackpool a double-edged sword.
“In terms of quality, these replacement trains are a downgrade.
“They are older and not as passenger friendly, while the quality of the disabled toilet is not really good enough for a modern day transport system.
“I hope that, when electrification of the line is complete in 2017, we will be provided with a more up-to-date fleet.”
The Government’s announcement was part of a series of changes designed to improve rail services across the region.
The plans to increase rolling stock include electric trains on the Manchester Victoria to Liverpool and Liverpool to Preston routes, as well as more services to the Lake District.
But Stephen Brookes, chairman of the Blackpool Passenger Users’ Panel said he was “totally dismayed” by the proposals, and plans to bring in older stock.
He added: “They are giving us more seats, but they are rubbish seats. We are getting trains which are more than 30 years old, replacing trains which are six or seven years old. We are getting the older services which people do not want. It is a slap in the face.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The bluster from the Government about “new trains for the north” has been exposed as a pack of spin, subterfuge and downright lies.
“The truth is that the more modern rolling stock is being shipped south with aging units, running reduced formations, dumped onto Trans-Pennine Express in yet another lashed-up measure which is an insult to the whole region.”