NETWORK RAIL has consulted the industry on an application by Arriva Trains Wales to continue operating services to Manchester Airport until the end of its franchise in October 2018.

ATW’s initial request to extend more of its North Wales services beyond Manchester Piccadilly was blocked in 2015 by Network Rail, which was in agreement with the Department for Transport that the ATW services would have to be withdrawn on completion of the Ordsall Chord to enable a new service to operate to the airport from Leeds. The access disputes committee subsequently found that Network Rail had acted beyond its powers. ATW began its additional workings to the airport in May 2016, having been awarded access rights by the Office of Rail and Road two days earlier.

The ORR awarded the rights only until December 2017, when the Ordsall Chord is due to open.

Other franchises and Network Rail had argued that ATW’s service extensions would worsen performance in the Manchester area, but the ORR said any performance risk south of Piccadilly would be balanced by better performance resulting from the removal of shunting movements by terminating trains just outside Piccadilly.

Network Rail has not objected to ATW’s new application, which seeks to continue the North Wales services well beyond the planned opening of the Ordsall Chord.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: ‘We were asked to provide views on the application from ATW to extend their Manchester Piccadilly service to the end of their current franchise, and we have supported the application. We will review the consultation responses and act upon them accordingly.’ Rhodri Clark