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Blackburn MP Jack Straw concerned for East Lancashire commuters
9:54am Thursday 6th March 2014 in News
COMMUTERS from East Lancashire could be left stranded when one of the North West’s biggest transport services sends nine rail carriages from the north to the south, an MP has warned.
First TransPennine Express’ train fleet will be cut by 13 per cent next year, following a decision by the Department for Transport.
Yesterday, Blackburn MP Jack Straw, said he was concerned there would be a knock-on effect for East Lancashire commuters.
FTPE runs services across the north of England and into Scotland, carrying 26million passengers a year. Many travellers from East Lancashire connect with FTPE services in Preston, Bolton, or at Manchester Airport.
Mr Straw also slammed the state of the area’s trains, run by Northern Rail, describing them as ‘Leyland bus bodies on a coal wagon chassis’.
Speaking to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, Mr Straw said the FTPE services were already among the most overcrowded in the country.
His question came just hours after Northern Rail faced criticism on social networking site Twitter.
Ben Thompson wrote: “Nice to hear the conductor apologising for overcrowding on the 7.40am Clitheroe to Manchester. Two carriages again, Northern Rail?”
Mr Straw asked Mr Cameron about one-in-eight FTPE trains being transferred to Chiltern Railways, which operates between the south Midlands and London via Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
MPs responded by heckling the former Home Secretary, and David Cameron later admitted to being ‘cheeky’ after reminding Mr Straw he lives in the Cotswolds and will personally benefit from the stock transfer.
Mr Straw said: “This is not a laughing matter to the people of East Lancashire.
“TransPennine services are already among the most overcrowded in the country. But despite the joshing, I was afterwards assured by the Prime Minister that he would look into the matter.
“If nothing is done, the strain on services will be serious because of over-crowding.”
He later said: “Rail passengers in our area already have to put up with some of the most clapped-out trains in the system – like the 30 year-old ‘Pacers’ (Leyland bus bodies on a coal wagon chassis). There’s far less investment in public transport in the North West than in the South.”
The Department for Transport announced that FTPE will transfer nine of 70 trains to Chiltern, which require the additional trains for its services.
A statement from FTPE said despite the disruption, the company would work hard to improve services.
FTPE managing director Nick Donovan said: “We are in negotiations with the Department for Transport to agree operating until February 2016, which is the anticipated start date of a new longer term rail franchise.”
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