TWO vital hourly rail links between Chester and Manchester could be axed as part of government plans to shake up the nation's 'under used' rail network.
Shoppers, commuters, tourists and airport users could be left high and dry if the Government presses ahead with a threat to shut a pair of historic links between both cities.
Hundreds of passengers use the services each day to travel into Chester and Manchester and the economy of both cities would suffer if the services, which the Government claim are underused, are axed.
The 'little-used' Cheshire rail routes announced by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling are:
Chester to Manchester via Warrington Chester to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich Helsby to Ellesmere Port In naming them, Mr Darling announced plans to set up 'community rail partnerships' to improve marketing and allow operators to save money by opting out of industry-wide maintenance standards.
But he added: 'We can't be in the business of carting fresh air around the country'.
The services are among 56 loss-making lines across the country where the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is demanding a doubling of income and a halving of subsidy per passenger.
However, the threats come at a time when the Government is encouraging people to ditch their cars in favour of public transport.
Rail buffs and commuters were this week stunned by the Government's announcement and can't understand why the two Chester to Manchester services - the only direct routes between the two cities - are 'under used'.
Cedric Green, secretary of the North Cheshire Rail Users group, said: 'I cannot contemplate the end of these services.
'If they were axed it would put more traffic onto the M56. People who currently use this service would find themselves high and dry.'
Chester resident John Mooney uses the Chester to Manchester via Warrington service every day to get to work in the city.
He is also regional director of the Rail Passengers Committee - the watchdog for rail services in the North West.
'It's nonsense that this service is underused. You are lucky to get a seat in the morning,' he said.