Ormskirk – Preston Trains an update on a line that’s struggled to deliver decent service levels for a very long time now

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Along with many railway routes across the Northern Rail franchise the Ormskirk – Preston Line has suffered some very poor levels of performance for a long time now. Indeed, whilst you may be forgiven for thinking the melt-down that is Northern Rail started when the May 2018 was brought in the reality is that the rot set in well before that on this line. Cancellations and the dreaded rail replacement buses have been the norm for much longer than that sadly.

OPSTA*, the local volunteer rail campaign group, have been trying to hold Northern Rail’s feet to the fire so to speak in an attempt to push them to address all the many problems that have beset the line and here is the latest from them:-

They have been pressing Northern on why the service has been so abysmal in recent weeks and what steps they are taking to improve.

In response Northern stated that in the last 4 weeks the majority of cancellations were down to infrastructure failure** with 40% attributable to unavailability of traincrew or a train unit. Northern has claimed actions are being taken to bring about an improved service.

From Monday (17th) a new traincrew roster/link comes into effect and this has been designed to optimise performance and minimise all traincrew related cancellations for all Lancashire routes. We will of course be monitoring closely as ever.

OPSTA are looking for response and feedback on other matters raised with Northern but one thing seems clear, the final bus replacement service (11.26 Preston departure) may not be reverted to train before December.

OPSTA will continue to pursue the issues and concerns over replacement bus services, last minute cancellations and lack of revenue protection/ticket selling.

With thanks to Alan for the lead to this posting

* Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association is a rail campaign group made up of volunteers who are dedicated to improved train services on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan – Manchester lines operated by Northern Rail

** for ‘infrastructure failure’ read Network Rail as they are responsible for the track, signaling etc. on which the trains run. The response would seem to indicate that Northern feel that the majority of problems are out of their control.

Transport For the North (TFN) make bold statements on rail but will anything much actually happen?

A Northern Class 158 DMU at York Station

The article is on Transport for the North’s web site – see link below:-

transportforthenorth.com/transport-north-board-takes-decisive-action-future-norths-railways/

A Transpennie Express Class 185 DMU leaving Liverpool Lime Street Station

And why do I continue to hold a skeptical line? Keolis have recently announced that the Liverpool – Chester via Frodsham service, due to start in December, will not now appear until May 2019. This is due, I understand, to “rolling stock availability issues”. Keolis take over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales (which will run this new service) next month.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting

Co-Options onto Parish Councils

My heart always sinks when I see a Parish Council using its power of co-opting a person onto its Council. The power is used to fill a vacancy amongst the Parish Councillors caused by death, illness, disqualification, resignation etc. of an incumbent councillor. It’s never a good sign to see co-option taking place, in my view, because it means that local democracy is not working well and no one wants stand for election to fill the vacancy via a by-election.

My personal view is that this power should be withdrawn as it should have no place in a modern democracy.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve been on a Parish Council when co-options have taken place and yes I have gone along with them in the past. But the last time one came up on Lydiate Parish Council I voted against the co-option, not because I had a problem with the person concerned, how could I – knew nothing of them, but because I have grown to realise that co-option is not something I can continue to support. If someone is willing to be co-opted then they should also be willing to stand in a by-election where all the electorate of the Parish or ward of the Parish gets the opportunity to vote them in or not so long as more than one candidate stands for the vacancy of course.

I know co-option is favoured by many associated with Parish Councils because it saves on by-election costs but just think on that a minute because it’s side stepping democracy is it not?

And what made me think of this matter again now? Seeing a public notice for a Parish Councillor vacancy on Aughton Parish Council and along side it an agenda for a Parish Council meeting which had an item on it associated with making a co-option. I’m not trying to single out Aughton Parish Council by the way (it may well be one of the best Parish Councils in England for all I know) as co-option is common-place across many Parish Councils in England but I am saying that the practice should be brought to an end.

Ready for another financial crash? Well it seems one could be on the way!

Sky news have the story on their web site – see link below:-

news.sky.com/story/next-financial-crisis-has-begun-and-will-be-worse-than-2008-crash-economists-warn-11497433

As if we don’t have enough to worry about with our economy tanking because of Brexit! Very sobering indeed with Brexit and potentially another financial crash hitting before we have even recovered from the 2008 crisis. If I was religious I may even recommend praying……

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

Maghull – Sefton takes action at Green Lane over 11 years of car sales

Well this has been one very, very long saga indeed but at last Sefton Council has taken what looks to be effective action.

I think my first involvement in this issue will go back to around 2007 when a Liverpool Road South resident contacted me in what was my Sefton Councillor capacity back in those days. The complaint was that the ‘Hammer Head’ at the end of Green Lane was being used for commercial car sales and could I help get it stopped/addressed? I blogged about the matter back in March 2011:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/03/26/the-strange-story-of-the-green-lane-car-sales/

Subsequently I contacted Sefton Highways quite a number of times to see if they had come up with any solutions but I got the distinct impression we were all going around in circles. One resident even suggested to me that Knowsley Council had addressed such issues by using Anti Social Behaviour laws but Sefton were not keen on taking that route.

What it seemed to come down to was that Sefton Highways were saying that a car sales company could sell up to 2 vehicles in one location on the public highway and no one could stop it, or words to that effect. When I pointed out that there were usually 3 or 4 cars for sale on Green Lane I was told that they were being sold by two separate companies so Sefton’s hands were still tied.

I then ceased to be a Sefton Councillor for Park Ward in 2015 (and had moved from Maghull to Lydiate) and whilst the car sales were still on going the complaints, to me at least, had stopped. However, I retained an interest in the matter and discussed it with one of the present Sefton Councillors for the Ward.

Then out of the blue about 4 weeks ago Sefton Council had a contractor out in Green Lane installing parking restrictions. Well I thought to myself 11 years on and a solution has finally been found, who said that the wheels of local government turn very slowly!

Here’s a couple of photos of the end result:-

EU Referendum – When those charged with ensuring a fair and level playing field tilt that same playing field!

The Guardian has the comment piece on its web site – see link below

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/14/judges-brexit-vote-eu-referendum-vote-leave

I must admit that when it started to appear that the Electoral Commission had acted in a less than even handed way over the EU Referendum my first thought was no surely not but as the whole saga has unfolded some very worrying aspects of the actions of the Commission have been brought to the surface.

I suppose the bottom line is how on earth could a body charged with ensuring fairness in our democratic process get itself into such a situation? It beggars belief frankly.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.