THE CHAIR of a rail organisation has criticised Andy Burnham over plans to investigate train company Northern.

Jeff Davies, of the Bolton Rail Users Group, said the operator is not responsible for the recent spate of delays and cancellations, which have resulted from staff shortages because of Network Rail's overrunning work in Blackpool.

It comes in response to the Greater Manchester mayor's call for Transport for the North (TfN) chairman John Cridland to assess the company on failures to meet its targets.

However, Mr Davies said investigating the company would not deal with the root of the problems.

He explained: “Northern is in trouble for reasons not of its own making, it’s all to do with Network Rail’s electrification failures.

“I welcome Mr Burnham’s interest in our rail services, but I can’t see what investigating Northern now would do to solve the issues.

“The problems will solve themselves when Northern’s new trains arrive and electrification is completed.”

The Bolton News recently reported that Network Rail had set an end date for Bolton’s electrification programme of December 10.

Once the infrastructure is in place, Northern claims it will be able to lease new trains to improve the quality of journeys.

But, in a letter to the TfN boss, Mr Burnham said the reasons for the investigation were “repeated cancellations of peak services (often with minimal notice), regular delays and severe overcrowding”.

He added: “How can it be right that Northern presides over a service on which dangerous overcrowding in rush-hour is the norm, to such an extent that we know passengers have been taken ill?

“What accountability exists for an operator so persistently failing in its duty to deliver a reliable, safe service?"

The letter follows months of criticism of the deteriorating service from public figures in Bolton, including MPs Chris Green and Sir David Crausby.

Mr Green said: “Yet again I have been contacted about numerous delays and cancellations on the trains going to Manchester.

“Having raised this directly with Northern they have failed to answer my questions and concerns, stating that current problems are due to ongoing driver training programmes."