Ahead of line closures this weekend to prepare for upgrading for electrification of the railway between Blackpool North station and Preston, Gordon has met with management from both Northern and Network Rail.
He sat down with them to tie down the details of how replacement buses will operate between now till the week before Easter 2018, and to quiz them on other aspects of future operations.
After a detailed meeting with Northern and Network Rail at their Manchester Piccadilly headquarters, Gordon said: “I have been over in considerable detail with them as to how the replacement buses will operate, and particularly arrangements for access for people with disabilities and mobility problems.
"I am pleased that following the concerns I expressed about previous failings by Northern to guarantee accessible bus replacements earlier in the year when the lines were closed late nights and other times for bridge renewals, that Blackpool Transport have been given the contract to supply bus replacement services while the line is being upgraded. These will be from their most up to date bus fleet, with proper disabled access and other amenities.
“I have pressed Northern Rail in particular to make sure signage at Preston is much clearer than it has been with previous closures and to make sure staff are on hand at all times to help people arriving from Virgin and other trains there to come to Blackpool. They need to be there and properly identified - which they haven't always been in the past.
“It's good that though both the Blackpool North and South lines will be closed for work between now and January 28th, the route from Blackpool South into Preston and along that line will then reopen. But at the moment there will be no Sunday services on it. I have told Northern that I think since it will be the only way people can get by train from Blackpool during this period, they should look at putting a Sunday service on. This is a long but necessary closure for the electrification closure so it's essential Blackpool is seen to remain open for business - for residents as well as holiday and business visitors, especially over New Year and February half term holiday with events in the town.
“The general level of posters and communication I’ve seen prepared seems good, but I’ve asked Network Rail to make sure replacement timetables are available in decent sized print so everyone can read them easily as well as online. I’ve also queried why some of the late night bus services are scheduled to take up to 1 hour and 20 minutes from Preston to Blackpool - more than twice as slow as the existing rail journeys'.
"I’ve also stressed again, as I have on previous occasions, my concern that at peak times - weekends, holiday times and during busy Illuminations and other periods, too many passengers , often with poor mobility, heavy luggage, buggies and children, are forced to remain on the concourse at Blackpool North. I've seen for myself the huge rush that can result when they are only allowed on 2 or 3 minutes before departure. At best it delays trains, at worst it is I believe a Health and Safety hazard.
"When the lines and stations open fully again at Easter, there needs to be a proper re-examination of the situation and also a great improvement in timetable cooperation and train management at Preston between Northern and Virgin trains. At present there seems little coordination - and this results often in the ridiculous situation where fast Virgin trains come into Preston from major centres only for ongoing passengers to Blackpool to have to wait for up to half an hour for a connection because a Northern train has left just before the Virgin one. This isn't satisfactory and I will continue to press the point. As someone who uses these lines week by week to get to and from Blackpool to Parliament, I will be monitoring how things go over a period which we hope will result in Blackpool getting the long awaited electrification and better connections which we need."