MIKE Amesbury has echoed Andy Burnham’s call for an inquiry into mid Cheshire’s rail franchise holder Northern.

The Labour MP for Weaver Vale has criticised the franchise holder for continually failing to deliver on its promises.

It comes just days before Northern’s new timetable comes into effect for the mid Cheshire line, which includes two trains per hour at some peak times.

But that falls well short of the two trains an hour around the clock that were promised by Northern when it won the licence to run services in Northwich three years ago.

Mr Amesbury said: “Despite a series of promises to improve services in our locality, Northern has failed to deliver time and time again.

“I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically support Andy Burnham’s call to hold Northern to account.”

Northern, which is the trading name of Arriva Rail North, was given the licence to run services across the north from 2016 to 2025 in February 2015.

It was revealed at the time that the licence included two trains an hour on the mid Cheshire line, and a target launch date was later set at December 2017.

That was later put back to May 2018, and it was revealed in March that passengers would face another delay for the full roll-out of two trains an hour until December 2018.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, wants to see an inquiry into Northern’s licence following a series of delays, cancellations and missed targets.

In a letter to John Cridland, chairman of Transport for the North, he said: “It is not unreasonable to believe that with better planning, or more investment in staff, Northern may have been able to mitigate some of these recent problems.

“I understand that a number of promised service improvements have not been delivered against the advertised timescale.

“Whilst I appreciate that some of these commitments will have been affected by Network Rail’s delayed infrastructure delivery, there does not appear to be a valid explanation for why other commitments, such as enhanced Sunday services, have not been introduced.”

Northern has confirmed that the most recent delay to the roll-out of two trains an hour in mid Cheshire is due to electrification at Bolton being put back – meaning diesel services currently running from Manchester to Preston cannot be used in Cheshire.

In a letter dated May 10 and released to press today, David Brown, managing director of Northern, told Mr Burnham that the company is ‘doing everything possible to get services back to an acceptable level’.

He said: “The completion of the electrification work between Manchester and Preston is the catalyst for much of our modernisation programme and the delivery of extra services and capacity increases across our network.

“I am frustrated at the lengthy delays that have impacted on our ability to deliver the better services our customers expect and deserve, but can assure you that we are doing everything possible, with Network Rail, to ensure completion of this project and unlock better train travel across the north.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group added: "Everyone wants a great railway for the north of England.

"That’s why Northern is in the early stages of an ambitious transformation programme to modernise services across the region, improving journeys, better connecting communities and boosting local economies.

"As with all major transformation projects there have been challenges and there may be more to come but teams are working together tirelessly day-in-day out to minimise any disruption to passengers.”  ​