Warrington Borough Council has expressed its strong opposition to proposed changes to train timetables, which would have significant implications for services that call at stations in the borough.

The rail industry has launched a consultation – led by Northern and Trans-Pennine - on its proposed December 2022 timetables. This includes a number of changes to services that call at stations in Warrington, particularly on the CLC line.

In response to the consultation, the council has written to the train operating companies to state that it strongly opposes the proposals, due to the detrimental impact it would have on rail services in Warrington.

The plans would see the reduction of services connecting Warrington Central station to Manchester from four-per-hour to three-per-hour in inter-peak, due to the removal of one of the stopping services.

Warrington West, Warrington Central, and Birchwood stations would also lose a direct service to Manchester Airport, due to the removal of the Northern semi-fast train that currently calls at all three stations, before proceeding to Manchester Piccadilly and the airport.

Under the proposals, there would be no direct service from any Warrington station to Manchester Airport on a Sunday, due to plans for The Transport for Wales service from Warrington Bank Quay to terminate at Manchester Piccadilly rather than the airport on this day.

In addition, the proposed new timetables would have a negative impact on service levels at the new Warrington West station, particularly in the direction of Manchester. The proposals would see Warrington West lose one of its inter-peak services to Manchester each hour, leaving just one-train-per-hour. This service would terminate at Manchester Oxford Road, meaning that Warrington West would also lose its direct connection to Manchester Piccadilly in the inter-peak.

The council has also expressed its strong concerns that the proposals would lead to poor cross-Warrington connectivity. Improving connections between Warrington West and Birchwood is one of the council’s aspirations. However, the new timetable would have only one-train-train-per-hour between these stations in the inter-peak.

Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transportation and Public Realm, Cllr Hans Mundry, said: “We are committed to improving the quality of rail services in Warrington – it’s a key priority of our Local Transport Plan (LTP4). That’s why we cannot support any timetable changes which have a detrimental impact on services at our stations.

“It is extremely disappointing that, under these proposals, the direct connection to Manchester Airport from Warrington Central, Birchwood and Warrington West will be lost. Additionally, the Transport for Wales service is shown as being a Manchester Piccadilly to Chester service only on a Sunday, and will not serve Manchester Airport. This means that Warrington will not have a direct service to the airport at all on a Sunday. 

“These proposals will also see Warrington West lose one of its inter-peak services each hour, leaving just one-train-per-hour to Manchester. The service that would be lost is the semi-fast service that currently goes to Piccadilly and the Airport, and only the stopper service will call at Warrington West. This means a journey time of 39 minutes to Manchester, compared to 27 minutes on a semi-fast service. This service will terminate at Manchester Oxford Road, meaning that Warrington West also loses its direct connection to Manchester Piccadilly.

“It’s also crucial that Warrington West and Birchwood stations are connected more frequently than the proposed one-train-per-hour throughout the day.

“It is very disheartening that a whole rail industry-wide approach has not been taken to progressing options for performance improvements on Manchester services. Having Train Operating Companies leading on timetable consultation and Network Rail leading on progressing infrastructure improvements has led to a position where Warrington now appears likely to suffer severe worsening of service levels.

“These proposals raise questions about the commitment to ‘levelling up’ in places like ours. That’s why we have written to partners in the rail industry to state our strong opposition to the plans, and to seek assurances that infrastructure investment will happen on the CLC line through Warrington.”