THE long-awaited promise of two trains an hour along the Mid Cheshire line into Piccadilly is in doubt, due to ‘pathing issues’ between Stockport and Manchester.

An extra train each hour, linking Northwich to the two cities, had been due to start in May, but timetable issues at rail operator Northern meant this was pushed back for the second time.

Now, a Transport for the North report has suggested that the extra service would only travel between Chester and Altrincham, leaving Northwich passengers relying on Metrolink services to get to Manchester.

The report said: “Northern’s May 2019 timetable closely resembles that originally consulted through Transport for the North and bid to operate in May 2018. However, a number of changes have been made.

“The fixes to the May 2018 timetable that are being developed as part of the December 2018 timetable, in conjunction with Network Rail’s project team tasked with improving performance.

“Northern have not been able to bid [for] the second Greenbank to Manchester train due to pathing issues between Stockport and Manchester.

“They have bid to provide a second train per hour between Altrincham and Chester, benefiting the core section of route and enabling interchange with Metrolink.”

The fabled ‘two trains an hour’ for Northwich and Knutsford residents was originally promised for December 2017 by Northern, after they won the Mid Cheshire Line franchise bid in 2015.

But delays to other improvement works across the country meant this was pushed back to May 2018, when a major timetable overhaul led to widespread disruption.

“It’s another blow,” said Knutsford Town Council member Andrew Malloy.

“I am asked on a regular basis, ‘when are we getting this second service?’ With the issues we have had over the last six months, it’s been really tough for passengers using that line and it’s becoming even more evident that we need more frequent, reliable services.

“We don’t seem to be gtting that at the moment, and it’s in various bodies’ hands to get that resolves ASAP.

“It seems to me that the Mid Cheshire Line is being put very much on the back burner. It’s becoming the forgotten line.

“The roads are getting busier, buses are getting cancelled left, right and centre, and people want that alternative solution.”