FURTHER delays to the opening of the Todmorden Curve rail link have been slammed as ‘shambolic’ by Hyndburn MP Graham Jones.
The Lancashire Telegraph revealed yesterday how the opening of the faster Blackburn to Manchester route – initially put back from May 2014 to December 2014 because of a lack of rolling stock – had been postponed again until May 2015 because signalling work was incomplete.
Mr Jones said that even if Network Rail had completed work by its revised target of December 2014, a lack of trained Northern Rail drivers would have left services unable to run until early 2015.
Lancashire County Council chief executive Jo Turton has written to the Labour MP, who is due to meet rail bosses in the coming weeks, to confirm the staffing crisis.
In a letter dated July 22, she wrote: “Northern Rail requires additional drivers and conductors to provide the service.
“The recruitment and training of drivers can take up to 60 weeks to complete. Northern Rail have started driver recruitment, however, they have informed us that drivers will not complete their training until the early part of next year.”
The new route, which will call at Accrington and Burnley Manchester Road stations, is expected to boost the East Lancashire economy by slashing journey times between Blackburn and Manchester to just 45 minutes.
Mr Jones said his constituents felt like they were being ‘short-changed’.
He added: “They are well aware of the delays - concerning the trains, the signals and the staff - while there has been huge investment in railways in the south.
“They feel rightly aggrieved. It’s just shambolic how they can invest in a track but not have anything to run on it.”