Shock as fast trains face chop

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Chorley commuters face the loss of some of the town’s fastest trains due to the electrification of the rail network.

Currently 22 First TransPennine Express services pass through the town every day on the Manchester Airport to Scotland routes.

Under plans by infrastructure operator Network Rail these services will be diverted to run between Manchester and Preston via Chat Moss and Wigan while the Bolton to Chorley line is electrified from December 2013.

Network Rail spokesman Keith Lumley said: “The intention is that when the railway line is electrified between Manchester and Newton-le-Willows they will start using electric rather than diesel trains, which will run across Chat Moss through Wigan.

“The whole point of electrification is that it’s going to improve services, meaning more services and quicker journey times, but we can’t do every single bit in one go.

“The work is being done in four phases, and unfortunately, Chorley and Bolton is Phase 4, the final bit of the jigsaw.” He said there would be ‘short-term losers’ but it should be good news for everybody in the long run.”

Coun Peter Goldsworthy, Leader of Chorley Council, said: “This is extremely disappointing news for the people who use the railway station in Chorley. The trains are already badly overcrowded at peak times and to remove around a dozen services in each direction every weekday is just not acceptable.”

Although Network Rail has suggested that express services will return to the town after electrification in 2016, no guarantee can be made as First TransPennine Express’s franchise runs out in 2015.

A First TransPennine Express spokesman said the company may revise its timetables to ensure suitable replacement services are provided during the electrification process, but stressed that any alternative services would still be at a very early planning stage.

He said: “If there are works anywhere on our network our aspiration is always to put on trains and keep passengers on the move by rail. We have responded to the consultation document indicating it would be our preference to continue to run services through Chorley..”

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “When the line is closed now they always put on coaches from Chorley railway station, and we would expect the same provision while the electrification takes place.”