'The market has changed': Northern defends further cuts to Wakefield train services

Train operator Northern has defended its plans to axe more local train services over the summer, following widespread criticism.

By David Spereall
Friday, 25th March 2022, 8:53 am
Updated Friday, 25th March 2022, 8:56 am

The company's service that links Wakefield Westgate with Leeds and Sheffield will be among those scaled back in May, with three weekday journeys each way cut.

Passengers who board that train at Moorthorpe, Fitzwilliam, Sandal and Agbrigg and Outwood will be affected too.

The changes kick in in May, with Northern insisting they are "temporary" changes in place for the summer only.

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Northern claims the changes will only be temporary, despite failing to reinstate supposedly temporary cuts to services around Pontefract that were imposed in January.

They've blamed a huge driver training backlog for the problem, which was caused by the pandemic.

But with Arriva also announcing further cuts to the local bus network this week, there are concerns that more commuters will abandon public transport altogether, while those who have to rely on it will be left even more isolated.

Northern is still yet to reinstate services it cut around Pontefract and the Five Towns just after Christmas, having promised then that they would be running again within weeks.

Speaking to local passenger representatives at an online meeting on Thursday, Northern stakeholder manager Pete Myers said the operator was also trying to adjust to changing demand.

The service that links Wakefield Westgate with Sheffield and Leeds will be affected, with three services in each direction cut.

He denied however that the cuts have been made for commercial gain and insisted no areas have been singled out for changes.

Mr Myers said: "It's important to realise that the market has changed.

"Whereas commuting was once very much what Northern was all about a few years ago, the commuting part of the market is only 40 per cent of what it was.

"But the leisure market is terrific. On a weekend, we have more people travelling than we did before the pandemic."

Councillor Charlie Keith said the issue demonstrated "the age-old conflict between running a business and running a public service."

Mr Myers said that more people were travelling to the Yorkshire Dales, the coast, as well as to Leeds, Sheffield and Meadowhall.

He added: "The timetable this summer will meet that changing market. That's really important.

"I do emphasise these are short-term changes and these services will come back when we have the resources to allow them to do so."

But Wakefield councillor Charlie Keith said he feared for the future of local public transport and the impact on passengers.

Labour's Coun Keith told the meeting: "Everybody deserves a service.

"Operators that run a business are concentrating on running a business and that means some of the less profitable routes are the ones that go the wall.

"This is the age-old conflict between running a business and running a public service.

"I'm concerned about further cuts and the long-term impact on us providing public transport as an alternative to getting in your car."

Local Democracy Reporting Service