Rail travellers already struggling with cuts to intercity train services to and from Manchester are facing more misery after a second operator announced it is bringing in a reduced timetable.
TransPennine Express said the amended service comes in on Monday 12 September until further notice.
A number of services to and from Manchester are being cut, with some trains being scrapped entirely and others terminating at different points along the route and missing out the city.
The blow for travellers comes as Avanti West Coast has come under heavy fire for cutting back on its intercity services, including reducing the key link between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston from three trains an hour to one.
What has TransPennine Express announced?
TransPennine Express says the changes affect its West Coast Main Line service connecting Manchester and Liverpool with Preston, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The train operator says it is trying to provide a more stable and reliable service and blamed issues including high levels of staff sickness and a driver training backlog which goes back to the Covid-19 pandemic.
TransPennine Express said this has meant trains being cancelled on the day or the evening before they were due to set off, and the firm set it hoped the cut-back timetable it is bringing in would stop that happening.
What does the change mean for Manchester passengers?
The TransPennine Express website shows the full details of the new-look timetable and it is clear that the choice of trains for Manchester passengers has been considerably reduced.
Four northbound services a day from the city are being withdrawn entirely. These are the 7.10am, 3.10pm and 7.10pm trains to Glasgow Central and the 9.06pm service to Lancaster. All of these departed from Manchester Airport.
Similarly, four southbound services coming into Manchester will no longer run. These are the 6.28am from Lancaster to Manchester Airport, the 7.09am from Glasgow Central to Manchester Airport, the 11.07am from Glasgow Central to Manchester Airport and the 8.11pm from Edinburgh to Manchester Airport.
In addition, several trains a day which used to run to Manchester will now start or finish away from the city.
Northbound the 6.10am and 11.10am Manchester Airport to Glasgow Central trains will both start from Preston. The 5.10pm service which previously ran to Glasgow will start at Manchester Airport but will only take passengers as far as Carlisle.
Southbound the 3.08pm and 5.07pm trains from Glasgow Central will no longer run to the airport but will stop at Preston, while the 7.09pm service to Manchester Airport will start from Carlisle rather than Glasgow.
The company says Saturday services will be broadly similar but with a few changes, and a couple of the partially-withdrawn trains are cancelled or have a different route on Saturdays.
TransPennine Express says it is also looking at rail replacement bus services or getting Avanti West Coast to introduce extra stops in the Lake District and Scotland.
What has TransPennine Express said?
Jerry Farquharson, service planning and performance director at TransPennine Express, said: “Our customers want reliable and punctual train services, and we are sorry that we have not been able to provide that due to the ongoing issues.
“In normal circumstances, we have enough people to fully operate our scheduled timetable, however the combination of factors has put unprecedented pressure on our ability to operate a consistent service.
“This temporary amended timetable for our services between the North West of England and Scotland will help us provide more stability and certainty for customers travelling on this route.
“We have put in place measures to communicate this revised timetable to any affected customers and believe that by bringing this timetable in, we will help customers have more confidence and certainty in the delivery of our services.”
Problems for intercity travellers to and from Manchester
TransPennine Express’ decision to cut its timetable comes when intercity train services to and from Manchester are already at a low ebb.
This led to chaotic scenes, crammed trains and people being unable to get on chock-a-block services, particularly on the route between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston.
Avanti made matters worse by talking about “unofficial strike action”, which incensed train unions who said the reason timetables were cut was because the company was reliant on the goodwill of train drivers working their rest days voluntarily.
The company has now apologised for the shambles in recent weeks and said it needs a “robust plan” so it is not reliant on voluntary overtime. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said the government should strip the operator of the franchise if it cannot restore the full service within a reasonable timeframe.