A FURIOUS councillor has slammed a rail operator for lack of consultation over weekend rail closures which will bring misery to travellers.
John McCann, opposition deputy leader of Oldham council and ward councillor for Saddleworth South, says local rail services from Greenfield will terminate at Stalybridge for seven weekends from Saturday, October 27 to Saturdays, December 7.
Travellers will have to make their way to Manchester Victoria by a slow bus service in the busy run up to Christmas.
“This is completely unacceptable,” said Cllr McCann who lives at Dobcross. “Northern Rail have offered no consultation or explanation and simply gone ahead with an unacceptable bus replacement.
“Instead of a fast 23-minute rail journey to Manchester Victoria, Saddleworth passengers will have to endure a 52-minute journey from Greenfield.
“This includes a five or ten minute wait at Stalybridge and a 33-minute bus journey to Victoria. Even worse, replacement buses will not carry heavy luggage, prams or bicycles, adding to the frustration.”
News of the weekend rail closures appeared in the May to December train timetable. “There has been no explanation of with local rail users or local councillors,” Cllr McCann fumed.
“Rail users know they face five years of periodic disruption to local rail services with the re-roofing and upgrading of Victoria Station over next year and then the electrification of the Manchester-Leeds route in stage up until 2018.
“But in this instance the rail operator should run through trains to Manchester Piccadilly when Manchester Victoria is unavailable instead of slow and inconvenient bus replacements from Stalybridge.”
A Northern Rail spokesperson said the work is preparatory for electrification of the route, which will mean faster and more reliable journeys for customers across the north of England.
“Unfortunately it is necessary to close the line between Stalybridge and Manchester Victoria,” she said. “The decision to do this at the weekends will affect fewer passengers with final weekend of work will finish on December 1 with the route available again in the run up to Christmas.
“The replacement bus service is publicised in our timetables and we will be doing further publicity nearer the time.
“We looked at diverted into Manchester Piccadilly, however there just isn’t the capacity to do this. Train services normally running between Stalybridge and Manchester Piccadilly are unaffected by this work.”