THE campaign to drastically improve Bolton’s rail service launched with news that carriages were being slashed.
Back in December, First Transpennine Express announced they were halving the number of carriages on the popular Bolton 8.08am service to Manchester, and re-routing the Scottish services through Wigan — meaning one less train through Bolton an hour.
Furious commuters told The Bolton News that the trains were already in a dire state — with a reduction in services only making a bad situation much worse.
We launched our Let’s Get Back On Track campaign the following day, demanding rail bosses improve the service and put more carriages on Bolton’s already overcrowded services.
The campaign and petition quickly picked up speed, with Bolton’s three MPs and town hall leaders all championing the cause.
And when Prime Minister David Cameron visited the newspaper’s offices a few weeks later to announce the £37 million electrification of the Bolton to Wigan railway line, he assured us that he would look into a solution for the town’s cattle truck carriages.
Soon, the campaign had attracted hundreds of signatures, with commuters sharing their horror stories of dangerous overcrowding, fights breaking out and people fainting due to the claustrophobic conditions.
The Department for Transport was invited to attend a public meeting on the problem in Bolton town centre, but refused.
Instead, they invited MPs David Crausby, Julie Hilling and Yasmin Qureshi to their offices in London to thrash out a solution — but said The Bolton News could not attend.
On March 6, our politics reporter Elaine O’Flynn met the MPs in London to deliver the 1,400-strong petition to Number 10 Downing Street, ahead of their crunch meeting with rail minister Stephen Hammond.
At their Westminster meeting he told them he was looking at a short-term solution, and agreed that any trains released following the Manchester to Liverpool and Wigan to Liverpool line electrification in December this year would be kept in the north.
This week the government went one step further, and agreed that any spare diesel carriages from the Manchester to Liverpool electrification would be used to help Bolton commuters.
December 5: First Transpennine Express announces plans to reduce the number of trains and carriages calling at Bolton. Commuters tell The Bolton News that the move will only worsen Bolton’s “sardine carriages”.
December 6: The Bolton News launches its Let’s Get Back On Track campaign and a petition, which calls on rail bosses to put more carriages along the Bolton train corridor
December 8: The number of carriages on the 8.08am service to Manchester from Bolton has its carriages slashed from six to three, while the Manchester to Scotland service is re-routed through Wigan, meaning one fewer train through Bolton an hour
December 9: Bolton’s business community argues that decent transport links are the lifeblood of commerce in the town centre
December 13: The Department for Transport says that the railway line between Bolton and Wigan will be electrified, thanks to a £37m investment
December 14: Prime Minister David Cameron promises to look into the issue of Bolton’s overcrowded railways during a visit to The Bolton News offices
January 15: An open meeting hears plans to launch a “Friends of Bolton train station” group in a bid to make sure commuters’ voices are heard
January 16: Representatives from First Transpennine Express, Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) and Bolton Council tell MP David Crausby that they are doing all they can to sort the problem, during a visit to Bolton train station
February 14: MP for Bolton West Julie Hilling and Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, meet rail bosses at Ms Hilling’s Westhoughton offices
February 19: Bolton’s three MPs invited to meet with the Department for Transport to look at how more carriages could be brought to Bolton — but The Bolton News is banned from attending
February 24: The Let’s Get Back On Track petition hits 1,000 signatures
March 8: Our petition containing 1,400 signatures is delivered to Number 10. MPs David Crausby, Julie Hilling and Yasmin Qureshi present it in Parliament, and also meet with rail minister MP Stephen Hammond