High Peak Borough Council leader Anthony Mckeown, Derbyshire County Council leader Barry Lewis and Robert Largan MP have urged Northern Rail to maintain the established twice-hourly service to Manchester, after plans were revealed to strip back the route from December 2022.
While services have already been reduced due to Covid, there is the possibility that cuts will become permanent and leaders fear detrimental effects for local residents, businesses and the economy as a whole.
In a joint letter to the rail operator’s managing director Nick Donovan, the three politicians wrote: “We are completely opposed to the proposed timetable on the Buxton to Manchester line, which serves Buxton, Dove Holes, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Whaley Bridge, Furness Vale and New Mills Newtown within High Peak.
“The timetable proposes maintaining two trains per hour during peak times but reducing services to once an hour during off-peak times. This would be a significant reduction in services and negatively impact the High Peak.”
They added: “We want to see improvements to local services that encourage visitors to the Peak District to travel by public transport rather than by car and enhance the service for our residents who rely on this for access to employment, education, and health services. Reducing rail services on the Buxton line would make this task even more difficult.”
Last year, the Department for Transport, Transport for the North and Network Rail led a public consultation on rail timetabling following work undertaken during 2020 by the Manchester Recovery Task Force.
The organisations are looking to address structural issues around the pre-Covid timetable which had frequently caused chaos for commuter links into the city, and provide reliable performance while more permanent infrastructure solutions are developed.
Despite significant opposition to the Buxton service cut, it was specifically included in the final recommendations of the task force as one of the few major changes compared with the 2019 timetable. The report describes its proposals as a “a reliable timetable in the short term as post Covid demand recovers”.
A second consultation on the changes closed on December 31, and route operators including Northern will now consider all feedback before making any final amendments.