Latest Rail News

20.06.18

Anger as Northern Rail routes ‘not really valued’ by ministers and DfT

Department for Transport officials and ministers were warned about Northern Rail chaos two years ago, but saw some key routes as “not really valued,” a north west MP has shockingly announced.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said she had been handed emails showing that high-ranking decision-makers in the department and government discussed in private the aim to axe prominent routes such as the Southport to Manchester Victoria line in Lancashire.

One of the emails between DfT officials said: “So Southport-Leeds is not really a ‘valued’ connection from an evaluation point of view, but my conclusion was that on balance we should contract it basically as a sop to Southport, at a time when they will be losing their Piccadilly/Airport link.”

Yet ministers continued to assure MPs that the routes would be saved, with Nandy posting a letter from the DfT in February this year. The letter said: “Northern is still working on the exact detail of this timetable and the peak services to Manchester Piccadilly will still go ahead as planned. My officials are working closely with Northern to assess the scope for additional services to Manchester Piccadilly as soon as possible.”

But behind closed doors, Nandy continues, DfT officials discuss spreading false information to deflect public attention from route closures. An email from a specfiications manager at the DfT to a Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) official said this will be “a classic handling strategy. Propagate the myth, that the service is closing entirely, then people will rejoice at the news that it is merely being diverted to Victoria.”

“Chris Grayling says he will learn the lessons. He must explain what he knew and when. All emails must be realised,” Nandy said.

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Image credit: Gareth Fuller, PA Images

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