PASSENGERS on the Lakes and Furness Lines face a reduction in services and standards in two years’ time, rail unions warned this week.
Tourists, business people, students and older travellers will suffer because a planned rail shake-up favours big city urban areas over the rural north, says the Rail Maritime and Transport Union.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is consulting on Transpennine and Northern Rail services before it puts the franchises out to tender this December, with the eventual winners running services from February 2016.
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But the RMT has warned that the new regime could have serious implications for passengers using direct trains to get to and from South Cumbria to Manchester Airport.
The RMT says the DoT is proposing fare increases and scrapping of direct trains from Windermere/ Barrow to Manchester Airport.
The union also warns of possible ticket office closures or reductions in opening hours at manned stations.
And there could also be a cull of onboard ticket inspectors which would be replaced with platform machines, while old rolling stock could be brought in to service both lines, it says.
This week, RMT members petitioned passengers at Windermere Station and called on MPs to sign an early day motion to force a Parliamentary debate.
The public consultation ends on August 18.
Bernard Atkinson, the RMT secretary for the Lakes Branch, said: “From a safety point of view, these changes are abhorrent.
“They are taking away the human factor and passengers want to deal with people. Once the machine has broke, it’s broke. If there’s no conductor on the train, who are you going to ask?”
A DfT spokesperson said: “It is utter nonsense for the RMT to suggest that the DfT would ever put passengers at risk or destroy services. We are consulting with the public and our industry partners, including the rail unions, to ensure that the Northern and Transpennine Express franchises capitalise on the government's massive programme of rail investment across the region which will deliver real benefits for passengers and taxpayers.”