RAIL NORTH – A long-term rail strategy for the North of England

I have recently been reading this 84 page document which you could say is the daft manifesto of this new rail organisation that is to gain devolved powers from Whitehall to deal with rail franchises in the North.

At this point you can see Whitehall Sir Humphrey’s meeting to say ‘thank God we are devolving power to that desperate place north of Birmingham so we won’t have to go there any more!’

Anyway what is the document all about? Well it’s all strategies and strategic thinking and frankly it is hardly good bedtime reading! Whether it will change the railway world in the North I am not at all sure and sadly it hardly majors on improvements to the lines north of Liverpool/south of Preston which I am interested in. Some interesting facts from it though are:-

• ‘Liverpool City Region has the most rail trips annually, in excess of 45m single trips’. It goes on to say ‘this reflects the high quality and frequent services provided by the Merseyrail network’.
• ‘Container terminal developments on the Mersey will result in greater future demand for rail freight’. An interesting point this as presently Seaforth Dock is hardly busy with rail traffic and if the new ‘river dock’ that will accommodate truly huge ships comes on line before the rail infrastructure is in place Bootle will be lost to lorry movements!
• Some interesting costs now – Merseyrail’s cost per passenger Km is £0.19, the average occupancy is 42%, and the average number of passengers per train is 89 with 26 in each carriage.

Under the odd heading of The North’s Interconnected Urban Matrix – there is a list of major cities and towns in the north of England – Sadly, someone seems to have forgotten that Southport is such a major town!

My point in making these remarks is that there simply does not seem to be any ambition to properly sort out the fact that some of the Merseyrail lines terminate in daft places that do not reflect the real travel to work areas of Liverpool. Where is the will to electrify the Bidston to Wrexham line? Where is the plan to extend the Liverpool Ormskirk line through to Preston? Why is there no big idea to take the Liverpool Kirkby line through to Wigan?


But what really gets my goat is the Southport issue that I have raised many times before. Do the great and good at RAIL NORTH even know they have a railway line from Wigan that ends in Southport, that it is in desperate need of new trains, better track and more frequent services? Do they know that at Burscough the two lines that cross each other (Ormskirk – Preston & Southport – Wigan) need to be reconnected so that once more Southport – Preston and Southport – Ormskirk trains are possible?

Come on RAIL NORTH let’s bring a little ambition to the Liverpool City Region railway network. It (the electrified part) may well be good as it stands but it in no way starts and finishes in the right places!

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