RAIL bosses have apologised to furious commuters and pledged improvements to services plagued by delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

Passengers on rush hour trains through Bromley Cross and Hall i’ th’ Wood to Bolton have recently condemned the problems that have left many stranded on platforms.

This week, Bolton Tory leader Cllr David Greenhalgh handed a 14-page document filled with complaints from commuters to Liam Sumpter, regional director of Northern Rail.

A large number of falling leaves causing damage to trains has been blamed for exacerbating the recent issues.

Mr Sumpter said: “I want to apologise to our customers for the poor service and overcrowded conditions they have endured when travelling to and from Bolton. I understand that the ‘leaves on the line’ explanation irritates customers and is often seen as a convenient excuse, but from a technical perspective, this autumn has been particularly challenging. The operational difficulties the weather and falling leaves create for all train operators cannot be underestimated.

“Our train drivers have to exercise extra caution to ensure they approach junctions and stations safely due to slippery conditions created by the build-up of leaves on the tracks.”

Cllr Greenhalgh said that his meeting with Northern, which Cllr Stuart Haslam and representatives from Network Rail also attended, was ‘very constructive’.

He added that Mr Sumpter has agreed to hold regular meetings about issues on the Bolton to Blackburn line and provide a written response to the commuters’ complaints.

Cllr Greenhalgh said: “I said before I went to this meeting, sadly, issues are not going to be resolved overnight, but we are now getting dissatisfaction with the service on the agenda.”

He added: “There are improvements on the way in the next 12 to 18 months but that is no good for the people who are going through hell on a daily basis now.”

Bolton North East MP Sir David Crausby has also written to rail industry chiefs about the ongoing problems, which he described as ‘completely unacceptable’. Delays to electrification upgrade works at Bolton station and the collapse of a bridge at Moses Gate have also caused major headaches for commuters this year.

The electrification project was due to be completed this December, but has now been delayed by a further six months due to poor ground conditions which have hampered the laying of steel columns that carry the power cables for the introduction of electric trains.

Steel cylinders will now be inserted in the ground and filled with concrete to prevent any collapse.

Engineers will be working around the clock between January and May, and commuters have been warned to expect further line closures.

Mr Sumpter added: “Thankfully, with autumn almost over, we expect to see some improvements in the coming weeks and once Network Rail have completed the electrification work we can look forward to more improvements.”