Could Boxing Day rail services return to Yorkshire in 2018?
It's a time of year when rail services are traditionally very thin on the ground, with most operators offering no services at all over the Christmas season.
But according to MP John Grogan, 2017 will be the last year where this is the case in Yorkshire. He says the terms of the Northern rail franchise mean 60 services must be provided by the company on December 26, 2018.
In an Early Day Motion submitted to Parliament this week, he said: “As a result of the franchise obligations for TransPennine and Northern, Boxing Day 2018 should see the first trains operating in the North of England outside Merseyside and Tyne and Wear since the mid 1970s.”
Mr Grogan, the Labour MP for Keighley, also took up the issue during a Commons debate, saying the “58-hour shutdown” of services and the lack of Boxing Day trains meant some people were not able to get home from work.
He pointed out that the situation was “in stark contrast to the situation that prevails in the rest of Europe where regular services run throughout the Christmas holidays”.
He told MPs: “It was not always like this in Christmases past, up until 1975 there was a Sunday service provided on most of the network, but it was gradually run down until it all but disappeared in 1980.”
He added: “There is some hope in the North of England, where Northern will have to provide 60 services next Boxing Day, 2018, this will be the first time in Yorkshire, I would suggest, on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines since 1980.
“TransPennine are obliged to suggest to the Government Boxing Day services, which they have done. I hope the Government discusses these with TransPennine.”
When approached by The Yorkshire Post, Northern and TransPennine declined to confirm whether they would be running Boxing Day trains.
A spokesman for Northern said: “We are currently looking into the potential for running services on Boxing Day 2018. We consulted on the idea earlier this year, and are now analysing the results of that work.
“We are not in a position to confirm any details at this stage, but will do so as soon as possible.”
Leo Goodwin, Managing Director of TransPennine Express, said a consultation had been carried out with stakeholders to ascertain the support for Boxing Day services, but that there was, as yet, no firm commitment.
Mr Grogan, who was elected as MP in this year’s General Election, ousting Conservative Kris Hopkins, said any such move by Northern would mean Manchester Airport would have trains for the first time on its busiest day of the year.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “The Government and Opposition should now agree that whether railways are in public or private hands in the future a basic Boxing Day Service should become the norm.”
Mr Grogan first asked the Government about Christmas trains, earlier this year, prompting a response from Rail Minister Paul Maynard.
In a written response on September 12, he said: “The Northern franchise requires them to consult with passengers, user groups, Network Rail, other train operators, and other relevant stakeholders on the potential demand for passenger services on Boxing Day.
“Once this is done they must prepare and submit a report to the Secretary of State which sets out their proposals for operating Boxing Day services. As part of this process Northern must provide a minimum of 60 services to operate on Boxing Day 2018.”