Rail misery in parts of Lancashire has been blamed on the success of Manchester as a Christmas shopping attraction.
Over-crowded trains linking Lancaster, Blackpool and Preston with the North’s biggest city have brought a string of complaints from frustrated passengers.
A spokesman for operator First TransPennine Express revealed: “The build-up to the festive season and the popularity of Manchester’s Christmas Markets have had a significant impact on services. Extra large numbers of people have been travelling to Manchester and that has led to some trains being a lot busier than usual.
“We have strengthened all our services over the festive period with extra carriages. We have all our available resources deployed. But they are very busy.”
Things became so unbearable for one group of Lancaster travellers last weekend that they abandoned their journey at Preston, disembarked and angrily demanded a refund. One fellow passenger on the breakfast-time train said: “It was incredibly hot, cramped and frankly dangerous. If anything had happened on the train, passengers would have been crushed on top of each other.
“Some women in their fifties standing behind me had to get off early because they felt ill and couldn’t bare to stand for another 45 minutes to get to Manchester.”
The Christmas shopping crush has caused problems for commuters heading to work and also holidaymakers trying to make flights at Manchester Airport. Two weekends ago 180,000 passengers passed through Picadilly Station, compared to the normal 80,000.
And it has been even worse for travellers using Chorley and Bolton stations which, from this week, are being bypassed by a large number of trains due to work on the railway system’s £400m Northern Hub. Many services are now using First TransPennine’s new electric trains and going via Wigan.
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “It’s unacceptable. The railways have got to get their act together. We need extra capacity.”