AN increase in train usage across Northwich slowed last year, as disruption played havoc with north west services.

The latest Office of Rail and Road passenger estimate figures show that passenger numbers have plateaued in west Cheshire over the 2017/18 financial year.

There were 238,904 entries and exits at Northwich station, 290,612 at Hartford and 241,706 at Greenbank – the town’s three largest stations – in this time.

Hartford – serving the Virgin Trains West Coast Mainline (WCML) saw an increase in passengers, while Northwich – on Northern’s Mid Cheshire Line – fell by almost 14,000 people. Fellow MCL station Greenbank saw an increase due to student train usage.

There are fears for next year’s figures amid this summer’s Northern timetable chaos and ongoing inconsistencies.

John Oates, chairman of the Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association, said: “MCRUA are disappointed but not surprised with these station usage estimates.

“During this period we saw the start of the RMT strikes and our rail users have had atrocious customer service from the new Northern franchise.

“Passengers are simply fed up with late running trains and cancellations at short notice.

“People looking for a day out are not using our services for leisure. Commuters are finding alternative ways of getting to work.

“Although a small reduction, over half a million passengers continue to use Knutsford probably because there are no alternative modes of transport into Manchester other than sitting in a traffic jam.

“The significant increase at Greenbank is the rise in season ticket usage of 11,322 extra trips. This will be because the re-introduction of Scholar Season Tickets, which MCRUA has lobbied for, has continued to attract more students to the Mid Cheshire Line.

“We are hoping that these figures will be a wake up call for Northern to improve their service and get the line back into growth again.”

Smaller stations such as Cuddington, Lostock, Acton Bridge and Delamere, all saw small increases to continue their recent upward curves.

Estimates are based on ticket sales, with Manchester Piccadilly as retaining its place at the top of the north west table with 27,724,962 entries and exits.

Last year, Northwich figures had topped 250,000 for the first time on record, while Hartford and Greenbank passenger numbers have both more than doubled since 2007/08.