THE mayor of Greater Manchester has blamed a lack of capacity for the latest delay in introducing the long-awaited two trains an hour into the city.

October saw another setback for the service, which was promised by rail operator Northern when it won the rights to provide Mid Cheshire Line services in 2015.

Currently, apart from two extra peak morning services, there is one train per hour serving Greenbank on the route between Manchester Piccadilly and Chester.

New services were set initially planned for December 2017, before being pushed back to May 2018 and again to December.

Transport for the North was last month told that, due to ‘pathing issues’ at Stockport, the second hourly service would only travel between Chester and Altrincham leaving Northwich passengers relying on Metrolink services to get to Manchester.

This leaves the promise of two trains an hour for Northwich in doubt.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said: “TfGM inform me that there are a lack of train paths between Stockport and Piccadilly which limits the additional services that can be provided.

“There are also a lack of platforms at Stockport and congestion around the Edgeley Junction which prevent additional services throughout the day operation between Stockport and Chester.

“While existing trains are already well-established during the peak on this line, due to the obstacles it has not been possible to mirror this off-peak.

“I understand how much of an important link [the Chester to Altrincham service] will be. I appreciate that its introduction is much needed, however the May 2019 date has been chosen to take into account the current availability of rolling stock and to also ensure rail crew are fully trained to avoid a repeat of the chaos we saw earlier this year.”

Northern timetable changes in May 2018 saw huge delays and disruption, with scores of services altered or cancelled to help mitigate the impact.

“The problem highlights the lack of capacity that exists across the rail network in the north,” Mr Burnham added.

“Until rail services can offer a reliable and attractive alternative to the car, GM and the wider north will struggle to tackle congestion and air pollution, impacting on economic growth and our health. A balance has to be found when creating a rail timetable to ensure that it meets demand and is resilient. Due to this, it isn’t always possible to create a timetable that fully meets everyone’s needs.”