THEORETICALLY, one of the great things about living in Warrington is its ‘connectivity’.

We all have the benefits of living in a town but the bright lights, shopping and entertainment on offer in Manchester and Liverpool, two of the country’s biggest cities, are a short, pleasant railway trip away.

Well, that’s the theory. Anyone who has to rely on train operator Northern will have their own tales of woe stretching back a couple of years.

Weekend strikes by Northern staff (now thankfully over) made the service virtually unusable for Saturday shoppers and the disaster of last summer’s new railway timetable was an absolute nightmare.

Theoretically, things have got better but last week, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, joined with Liverpool mayor, Steve Rotherham, to demand the Department of Transport take over the franchise, saying the improvements from last summer’s debacle were not enough.

In fact, the current problems have introduced a new word to my vocabulary ‘shortforming’, when a train turns up with fewer carriages than it should have.

This, it would appear is happening increasingly on Northern’s services and is one of the causes if severe overcrowding, especially during rush hour.

Mr Burnham said passengers and staff had been ‘let down’ by Northern’s management, and demanded Whitehall appoint a new board of directors and strip the firm of its franchise.

But here’s where we meet some confusion. A spokesman for the Department for Transport is reported to have said: “We have seen much needed improvements in Northern services since last year.

“Alongside Transport for the North, who co-manage the franchise, our absolute priority is delivering the services that passengers expect and deserve.

“At a time when performance is improving and brand-new trains are being rolled out to replace the unpopular and dated Pacers, change could result in significant disruption.

“We see no reason at this stage to consider making changes to the franchise.”

And yet, we have this report from The Times: “The viability of the rail operator Northern is being investigated amid growing expectation that it will be the next train franchise to be renationalised.

“The operator of last resort (OLR), a government arm that takes over ailing rail routes, is understood to be conducting due diligence on Northern.

“Last week, city leaders from the north of England called for the vast franchise to be taken back into state hands.

“The OLR already runs the East Coast line, renationalised last year when Stagecoach and Virgin gave back the keys after overbidding for the right to run the route.”

Perhaps the threat of having the franchise stripped away might do the trick and force Northern to get its act together but to be honest, I don’t care if it’s Northern or the Government’s operator of last resort that runs our railways.

We just need an efficient, reliable and value-for-money service, not the clown show we have been faced with over recent years.

n SO we say a fond farewell to Penketh councillor David Keane who has announced he will not be standing in the 2020 borough elections.

But Mr Keane, after getting the ‘unanimous backing’ of constituency Labour parties across Cheshire, will be the Labour candidate to become Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner next year.

It’s fair to say Mr Keane has been a somewhat controversial PCC over the four years of his tenure but I believe he has been a good Penketh councillor for more than two decades and has done a lot for the area.

I think he’ll be missed, at least by some of us.