RAIL campaigners are calling for urgent action to restore Saturday train services in the run up to Christmas.

The RMT union will continue strike action on all Northern services every Saturday this month, meaning cancellations on the Mid Cheshire Line.

The union is in a long-term dispute with Northern over the future role of train guards, saying that their removal brings safety risks.

Saturdays in December are the busiest time of the year on the Mid Cheshire Line – so much so that the Mid Cheshire Rail Users' Association (MCRUA) four years ago persuaded the train company to double train lengths to four coaches.

This year, there will instead be three buses each way on Saturdays.

MCRUA chairman John Oates said: “As the dispute between the RMT, the DfT and various train companies – including Northern – drags on with no end in sight, the Mid Cheshire Line has had no trains on Saturdays since August 25.

“The 36 timetabled trains are now replaced by 3 buses in each direction, each taking at least an hour longer than the trains.

“Christmas shoppers, revellers, sports fans and others normally fill the trains going to Manchester, Chester as well as Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham and Stockport.

“Now the service is so poor as to be virtually useless. Not everyone has access to a car and can drive and for many there is no alternative public transport.

“MCRUA calls on the DfT and the RMT to work urgently to set aside their differences and to allow Northern to run the trains that passengers expect in the run-up to Christmas."

He added: “Regrettably our advice to travellers is not to use the Mid Cheshire Line on Saturdays but switch their travel to Sundays or off-peak during the week."

Sunday services now run every two hours with four coaches.