RAIL passengers have welcomed the news that the number of trains on an important commuter line will increase substantially from next month.

Northern Rail has confirmed that it will be introducing a half-hourly weekday service between Blackburn and Manchester via Bolton from December 10.

The changes mark a significant improvement from the existing service, which is hourly at off-peak times and has some additional trains at peak periods .

The announcement will come as a relief to rail users in the north of the borough, who have regularly been left stranded on platforms due to overcrowded carriages.

Bolton North East MP Sir David Crausby said: “Increasing the number of trains in this way is excellent news. It means that the carriages are less likely to be full when they reach our stations and, even if you do miss a train, you will now only have half-an-hour to wait.

“We have to keep the pressure on. I think the train service is rotten, but it is not as bad as it was because we are collectively arguing our case.”

The improved service takes advantage of investment by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council to add double track on parts of the route between Blackburn and Bolton.

Across the North, the train operator will be introducing more than 130 new train services to its weekly timetable next month, the first move towards delivering more than 2,000 extra services per week by 2020.

David Brown, managing director at Northern, said: “In December Northern customers will witness an important moment in our three-year modernising plan as we start to add new and more frequent train services.

“Our plans will enable more people to commute into major cities, opening up Sunday and evening leisure opportunities across the network.”

Jeff Davies, chairman of the Bolton Rail Users Group, said: “We have been waiting for this development and we welcome it. It gives us an extra train to Manchester which will be very useful, and our concern now is to make sure we retain that when the next new timetables come in next May.”

The December, 2017 enhancements will also include Northern’s first train to cross the Ordsall Chord in Manchester.