Back in 1992, GMPTE needed to save some money, so temporarily enforced on what was then British Rail a cut back on the Sunday services on our line from two-hourly to only three trains a day and only between Chester and Altrincham. (They also knocked off the Sunday services between Bolton to Blackburn at the same time). We we’re furious, but GMPTE wouldn’t budge and British Rail couldn’t stop it. Patronage unsurprisingly collapsed. The “temporary budget cut” then became permanent.
We’ve been working hard at getting the service back ever since, getting it up to 5 trains a day by last December.
Then the Department for Transport (DfT)-enforced West Coast Main Line December 2008 timetable came in with its much worse Monday to Friday services for Manchester and Stockport commuters and Knutsford and Greenbank scholars. Someone in Northern must have been feeling very sorry for us, since they decided to give us our two-hourly Sunday service back at their own expense and also to run it all the way through from Chester to Manchester, and indeed on to Southport.
The increase in patronage has been astonishing, even better than we would have expected. Previously there were around 20 passengers on each train, now it’s often over 100 with Northern also deciding more recently to use larger units than the class 142 railbuses. Popular destinations seem to be Delamere Forest - take a look at their website – and also Knutsford with its Italianate buildings, specialist shopping, very nice restaurants and pubs, as well as Tatton Park. Have a look at virtual knutsford.
Next step? Hourly on Sundays, please!