A COUNCILLOR says the controversial decision to just run two rather than three trains an hour at Warrington's new station has been made due to 'panic' over last year's timetable disaster.

As revealed in the Warrington Guardian, the new Warrington West station in Chapelford will run two trains to Manchester and Liverpool every hour – rather than the three originally agreed when the station was planned.

It means for passengers heading to Warrington and Manchester, both trains will leave within 10 minutes of each other.

Ward councillor Steve Parish (LAB – Chapelford and Old Hall) said local councillors were very pleased to have Warrington West and looked forward to its opening, but were disappointed at Northern’s failure to abide by its franchise offer of three trains an hour.

Cllr Parish, who was a timetable compiler for British Rail in the 1970s, said the timetable did have enough time for a stop at Warrington West, but the industry had been panicked by the chaos of the May timetable last year.

“They are using the time saved to ‘make up’ time if trains are late,” he said, “but if the train leaves Liverpool on time, it will just wait three minutes at Warrington Central.

"Initially train companies didn’t all use the new Liverpool South Parkway station but most now do, and we expect strong demand at Warrington West will force a rethink.”

A Warrington Borough Council spokesman said it failed to secure approval for three trains an hour despite 'extensive efforts'.

He added: “For the station to open, we have had to secure approval from Network Rail via its ‘Network Change’ approval process. Objections to the station having three trains per hour were lodged by both train operating companies who operate services on this line, due to timetable modelling showing that this would cause additional delay on all services operating on this line.

Warrington Guardian:

“Despite our best efforts and ongoing dialogue with Network Rail and the train operators, we have only been able to secure approval for two trains an hour, to allow the station to open in December.”

The council says it will continue to lobby the rail industry to increase the frequency of services.

But with work on May’s timetables already under way, it seems unlikely that will change any time soon.

A Northern spokesperson, which will operate the services, said: “We fully understand the frustration of customers awaiting the opening of Warrington West station.

“We absolutely want – and aim – to deliver three services an hour from the station. But can only do this when the current capacity issues in Manchester are resolved.

“We will be introducing two services an hour as part of the December timetable change, which is also designed to deliver improved reliability, punctuality and stability.

“Customers at Warrington West will also benefit from the introduction of our brand new trains which will call at the station as part of the Liverpool to Manchester Airport service.”