Rail group say train service increases come too late for school children in South Lakes

A rail group has said rail service increases should have been introduced sooner to coincide with students returning to school.

Northern is calling on rail travellers to prepare for timetable changes on September 14 as the industry adapts to a ‘new normal’ as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Lakes Line User Group have said that more needs to be done in regard to school students, and wants more support at stations to ensure social distancing measures are being met by the students.

Robert Talbot, chairman of the Lakes Line User Group, said: “There is going to be a two hourly service on the Windermere line from Lancaster.

“The school children need one at 3.30pm. We have asked for them to juggle with the times but they have not been able to do anything for us.

“They won’t be able to get enough buses either due to social distancing issues. It is down to the schools which is unfair.

“I do know that Northern were in tough with Queen Katherine School though.

“When it does go back to the increased timetable we should have had four trains to the airport but we only have two.

“We are not best pleased about that really.

“Unfortunately, on the Furness Line, they have students attending school in Lancaster using that line with no train at 4pm.

“They would have to wait for an hour to get a train.

“We are generally supportive of the rail operators but they have not been at their best.

“The changes are another step back to normality but it is not watertight and not entirely to our satisfaction.”

September will see the introduction of new timetables, delivering more services in many areas and extending operating hours in others.

The timetables don’t represent a return to pre-Covid service levels, but reflect the challenges faced by the operator and the changing demands of customers, many of whom will be returning to workplaces and schools for the first time in several months.

Steve Hopkinson, Regional Director at Northern, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on society and the railway has not been immune from that.

“We are doing all we can to continue to provide the best possible service for customers across the network. Many members of staff have been shielding and the knock-on effects of the virus will be felt for many months.

“With limited resources, the timetables we are set to introduce in September reflect the new normal for Northern and have been designed to provide as many services as possible, at the times our customers need them, without risking punctuality and reliability.

“We want our customers to have confidence in the service we are offering and our plan to reintroduce services in a phased way will give those customers the stability they deserve.”

The approach does, however, mean that some routes will not see any enhancements as part of the new timetables and, on a handful of routes there will be a reduction in services.

Steve added: “We have to balance the demand for services with other factors, such as driver and conductor training, which have been paused for six months during the pandemic because of social distancing restrictions.

“We have brought in as many additional services as possible with the resource we have available and have prioritised routes and times where there is the most significant demand.

“Of course, all routes are important to us and we keenly understand the role we play in providing mobility for the communities we serve. As such we will do all we can to reintroduce further services when it is possible and appropriate to do so.”

Northern’s new timetables start on September 14 and details can be found online via the Northern website or at National Rail Enquiries.

Meanwhile, Northern continues to take additional steps to make the railway as safe as possible. Extra cleaning is being carried out on trains and at stations and the operator is asking customers to travel during less busy times where possible. And, of course, face coverings are mandatory (aside from those with specific exemptions) on all trains and at stations.

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