Business leaders demand full restoration of region’s London rail link
Business leaders from Greater Manchester have reiterated politicians’ concerns over the vastly reduced train service between the region and London.
On August 10, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, his London counterpart, Sadiq Khan, and Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig, penned a letter to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, protesting over rail company Avanti West Coast’s decision to operate a reduced timetable between the two cities due to staff shortages and severely limit advance ticket sales.
They described the action as a “national outrage”.
Avanti said the limited timetable will be in place “until further notice”.
Now, three weeks later, high powered business leaders from the region have written to Mr Shapps, and Avanti West Coast managing director Phil Whittingham, calling for action.
They describe their “deep concern and frustration” at the situation, calling for “an urgent restoration of the full timetable”.
They write: “Given the severity of these impacts, we ask that you work to reach a resolution that provides Greater Manchester with the frequent and regular intercity rail service that its businesses and economy need to thrive in the shortest possible time.
“As business organisations, we stand ready to do whatever we can to help restore the service that we rely on to drive economic activity in both Greater Manchester and London.”
The signatories are Lou Cordwell (chair of Greater Manchester LEP), Clive Memmott (chief executive, GM Chamber of Commerce), Katie Gallagher (managing director of Manchester Digital), Emma Degg (chief executive of North West Business Leadership Team), Steven Underwood (chief executive of Peel Group and Peel L&P), Chris Oglesby (chief executive of Bruntwood), Paul Johnson (president of Manchester Law Society), Amanda Halford (senior vice president sales, service and commercial operations at Cytiva), Steve Connor (chief executive of Creative Concern), Lorna Fitzsimons (co-founder at The Pipeline), Sam Booth (chief executive at pro-manchester), Cindy Simmons (managing director at Manchester Publicity Association), Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell (president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester), Vanda Murray (chair of Marshalls plc), Justin Kyriakou (regional director North West at ICAEW), Chris Manka (North West region chair of the Federation of Small Businesses) and Mike Blackburn (chair of Marketing Manchester).
The full text of the letter reads:
“We write to you as representatives of businesses in the Greater Manchester area to express our deep concern and frustration at the recent sudden and significant reduction in Avanti West Coast services and to seek an urgent restoration of the full timetable.
While we acknowledge the difficult challenges that the rail industry faces, Avanti provides our city region’s only direct rail connection with the capital and, as you would expect, is therefore of great economic importance to Greater Manchester; pre-COVID, business travel accounted for 58% of weekday peak-time rail journeys from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston.
Without this link, our businesses find themselves at a competitive disadvantage to other parts of the country, damaging prospects for economic growth at an already challenging time, with the costs of doing business rising and the impacts of the pandemic still being felt.
In addition to the serious overcrowding and associated safety concerns on severely restricted services, Avanti has very significantly limited its ticket sales, causing disruption and uncertainty for visitors wishing to come here, effectively indicating that our region is ‘closed for business’.
Given the severity of these impacts, we ask that you work to reach a resolution that provides Greater Manchester with the frequent and regular intercity rail service that its businesses and economy need to thrive in the shortest possible time.
As business organisations, we stand ready to do whatever we can to help restore the service that we rely on to drive economic activity in both Greater Manchester and London.
We look forward to your positive response and a swift resolution to this matter.”