A NORTHWICH MP is calling for fresh work to finally get a second train an hour on the Mid Cheshire Line.

Arriva Rail North pledged to deliver two trains an hour on the line between Chester and Manchester as part of its bid for the Northern franchise back in 2015 – an agreement terminated on March 1 when the Government put it back into public ownership.

That promise was supposed to be delivered by December 2017 but was pushed back with each new timetable – as delayed rolling diesel stock, capacity issues around Manchester and signalling issues at Mickle Trafford were all given as reasons for the delay at points over the past three years.

Now, the Government has launched a new body to speed up transport improvement projects in the north, and Esther McVey is urging it to find a way of finally delivering a second train an hour for her constituents.

The Conservative MP for Tatton said: "It is great news we have a body specifically for the north as good connectivity is not only beneficial to passengers but vital to our local economies.

“I have made the case repeatedly in Parliament for increasing capacity on the Mid Cheshire Line – and to rail bosses – and I will keep making the case.

"My constituents are frustrated by this delay and they deserve better than an unreliable and irregular service. I hope this new body will look closely at the case and realise the importance of increasing capacity as promised."

The Northern Transport Acceleration Council will be made up of council leaders and mayors, and chaired by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who Ms McVey has previously discussed the line with.

Northwich Guardian:

Grant Shapps MP. Image: PA

She believes it is 'ludicrous' to pin the blame for the delays on capacity issues now when the promise was made five years ago – but Northern insists this is the reason a second train per hour cannot be delivered yet.

A Northern spokesman said: "Our plans to introduce two services an hour on the Mid Cheshire line have been deferred, primarily because of capacity issues in and around Manchester.

“These issues are well documented and are currently being reviewed by the rail industry to determine the best way forward.”

The line is currently running a service a direct service from Northwich station to Chester or Manchester every two hours due to the pandemic.

Northern says this will soon be restored to an hourly service at morning and afternoon peak times, with the two-hourly service remaining at other times.

A Northern spokesman added: “We have done all we can to continue to provide the best possible service for customers across the network, but we still have members of staff shielding and the knock-on effects of the virus will be felt for many months.

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“As we work towards reintroducing services and re-instate our driving training programme, we are reintroducing some services in a phased approach.

"This will help to provide flexibility amongst train crew and trains themselves to protect the reliability of services across the rest of the network.”