Group will fight for more trains

Lancaster Railway Station.
Lancaster Railway Station.

A local railway campaigner has vowed his group will make its voice heard in order to protect train services out of Lancaster Station.

The vow from David Bousfield of the Lancaster and Morecambe Rail Users Group came after the Government this week admitted that mistakes had been made by the Department for Transport (DfT) during the process which saw the 13-year West Coast Main Line franchise awarded to First Group.

That decision has been cancelled and the DfT will no longer contest a judicial review brought by current operator Virgin Trains.

Outstanding franchise competitions have been paused pending a review of the process and Virgin will continue to run the line until the situation has been resolved.

The firm also runs Lancaster Station, where staff were due 
to move to First Group in December until this week’s announcement.

Mr Bousfield said the rail user group had met First Group representatives a fortnight ago to discuss the impact on Lancaster services.

First had promised an extra five services a day each way between Lancaster and London and to increase capacity on Birmingham-Lancaster-Glasgow trains from five to six cars with the introduction of new electric trains from 2016.

“There was uncertainty over whether there would have been more trains going directly between London and Glasgow with only one stop at Preston,” Mr Bousfield said. I think there was pressure from the DfT for companies to look at doing that but the implication would have been that there would be fewer trains stopping at Lancaster. However, at our meeting with First they made encouraging noises that by next spring we could be looking at more trains stopping here, which would have been good news.

“We would be hoping that whichever company runs the line in the future would make that same commitment and if there is a new tendering process ourselves, the city council and the Chamber of Commerce will need to make our voices heard.”

From December 2015, Virgin would have increased the number of hourly services between London and Scotland from one to three.

Although not all would have stopped at Lancaster, Virgin said the move, along with its introduction of additional trains between Blackpool and London from December 2013, would have freed up extra capacity on Lancaster trains.

But Mr Bousfield said the key question was whether trains stopped at Lancaster, and that one of the group’s aims was to increase the number of existing West Coast trains that stopped here.