COUNCILLORS fear timetable changes have ‘killed off’ the prospect of getting the promised three trains an hour at the £20.5 million Warrington West railway station.

Chapelford and Old Hall borough councillors Steve Parish, Paul Warburton and Rebecca Knowles have been campaigning for more services at the site which opened in December.

They say when the new station opened, the express from Liverpool to Manchester Airport stopped but only one of the two hourly local trains.

Now the latest timetable has changed departure times from Liverpool with the stopping train leaving before the airport express, although the airport trains are currently only running in the peak rather than every hour.

Under the full timetable, the local train leaving Lime Street at 17 minutes past the hour would cross to the slow line at Edge Hill to let the express past.

Cllr Parish, a former timetable compiler with British Rail, says it means the express can leave four minutes later but the stopping train is deliberately delayed by six minutes.

He says the ‘daft thing’ is that it means the stopping train has to make conflicting movements with trains heading into Lime Street, near Edge Hill and again on arriving at Liverpool South Parkway.

“It might look good on paper, but it’s a recipe for delays,” he said.

Mr Parish added that delaying one service by six minutes to save three minutes on another, while adding crossing movements at junction that could delay both, and breaking the promised service at Warrington West, seems a ‘poor bargain’.

Train operator Northern Trains has responded to the comments.

Regional director Chris Jackson says all customers can rest assured that the company is doing all it can to provide the best possible service in what continues to be extremely difficult circumstances.

“We fully understand the frustration of customers at Warrington West station who, like us, want to see the best possible service for the fantastic new facility,” he said.

“We absolutely want – and aim – to deliver more services for our customers, but can only do this when the current capacity issues in Manchester are resolved.

“We are operating additional services above the daytime hourly frequency during peak times which allows us to provide trains with increased capacity that are more reliable and punctual and it would be wrong to jeopardise this stability.”

“And, of course,  the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all train operators and, in particular, halted the training of hundreds of drivers and train crew, as well affecting the availability of colleagues who had to shield for medical reasons.

“As we restart the training programmes and begin to welcome colleagues back from shielding, this also has a significant impact on the number of services we can operate.

“We are incredibly proud of the dedication and commitment shown by our colleagues over the past few months as we’ve delivered a reliable railway and steadily increased services.

“We have though had to make some very tough decisions which, we understand, will have an impact on some of our customers’ journeys.”