Walkden park and ride

Residents from Swinton and Walkden will lose their weekdays direct train service to Southport when the new timetable is introduced on December 15.

Until now, the Manchester – Southport service was stopping twice an hour at Walkden Station and once an hour at Swinton but, from next week onwards, all the trains to Southport will go via Bolton, apart from Sundays when the Southport service will run once an hour on the Walkden and Swinton route.

There is a strong connection between Salford residents and Southport, which represents their main link to the coast and an affordable day out for families.

Campaigners and Councillors have asked for the service to be reinstated, hoping that the situation could be reversed when the May timetable is introduced, just in time for Salfordians to enjoy Summer days by the sea.

Cllr Laura Edwards tabled a motion demanding that the service be resumed, when the timetable change was first announced in September. The motion was unanimously backed by the council.

She said: “Me putting that motion through, it didn’t mean ‘great the trains are back’ but it meant the whole of Salford Council, not just the councillors that represent or live in Walkden, voted for it. So, it’s saying the whole of Salford council is in favour of it.”

The Walkden-Southport service has been operating for the past 131 years. In her speech at Salford City Council in September, Cllr Edwards pointed out that the links between Southport and Walkden are so deep-rooted in history that they are basically part of the town’s culture.

Cllr Laura Edwards tabled motion at the council in September

On local Facebook groups, fond memories of train journeys to Southport abound. Marilyn Hall wrote that she loved going to Southport on the train. Alan James added: “Trips to Southport were easy, we went on the train from Walkden, often on ‘excursion trains’. Blackpool was more difficult pre-motorway, you had to follow the A6, which was narrow in parts, and went through Chorley and Preston.”

Cllr Edwards deplores that there was no public consultation before Northern Rail made the decision to scrap the service. She said: “I think it’s more of a wider issue in that Northern are a private company – there’s no accountability.

“I think rail companies must be more accountable to people. Not necessarily local government but just to people more generally. Some people can’t drive and therefore rely on public transport. So rail companies can get away with running a rubbish service because people need it. It’s not like if it was a rubbish supermarket, you could just go to the other one. There’s no competition.”

Andy Barlow, Chair of the Friends of Walkden Station, said: “Particularly in the summer, a lot of young families and maybe a lot of older people enjoy their days out to Southport and, in fact, the service is quite heavily used.

“Southport is a very popular destination, there’s a long history of people travelling by train from here to Southport. For this area, it is the people’s link with the coast.”

Cllr Edwards said that as a councillor, her actual powers over Northern Rail are very limited, but added that popular pressure must be sustained. She said: “You’ve got to create that power, whether that’s me lobbying other politicians, us working together because somehow somewhere, people in Bolton managed to get our service, so we’ve just got to prove that you can’t just take it away.”

Mr Barlow reckons the reasons behind the change are operational, as it would be easier for Northern Rail to swap trains and crews if the service runs via Bolton.

Northern are yet reply to our request for comment.

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