Merseytravel/Merseyrail – 20 years of big local railway ambitions many of which have hit the buffers! – Posting 2

My first blog on this subject, posted on 29th January, was based on RAIL Magazine’s Merseyside feature in edition No.208 of September 1993.

We now move on to an edition of modern railways from August 2003 and their feature article headed ‘Bright future on Merseyside: 25 year franchise, new tram network’

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* June 2003 saw a £3.6b 25year contract awarded to Serco/Nedrail to run Merseyside’s 3rd rail electrified lines which serve 66 stations.

* Interestingly, cost cutting by a previous operator (MTL), who had run the electrified trains from rail privatisation until Arriva gained a short contract to run them, came in for some criticism in the article. Fines for poor services had hit £6m, we were told!

The fleet of class 507/508’s trains were then breaking down every 4,000 to 5,000 miles they travelled; well below the expected average of 15,000 miles per break down. They are clearly performing far better these days.

The article states that 25 overground and 5 underground stations were to be refurbished by 2006 – 5 per year. I have not checked this in detail so any comments would be welcome.

Another pledge was that all stations would be fully accessible by the end of the next Local Transport Plan in 2010. My reasonably informed guess is that this did not happen but I could be wrong.

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In the 10 years from 1993 (when the first magazine article that I reviewed was published) to 2003 it was claimed that £72m had been spent on the network with 5 new stations and 7 refurbishments. Old Roan, Kirkdale and Conway Park Stations were highlighted.

We then move on to planned expansion of the network and that old chestnut opening up the ‘Bootle Mineral Branch’ which runs from Bootle to Aintree was noted [it has not happened]. ‘The Bootle – Aintree link will only need about two miles of track to be upgraded and electrified and is covered in the LTP’ (Local Transport Plan). Sounds grand and as though it was a certainty but……………

Another plan in 2003 was to open up the Bootle to Edge Hill line to meet the demands of the proposed new football stadium [neither has happened].

And hey look more talk of an extension of the line beyond Kirkby. [still not happened]

And another one that did the rounds back in 1993 – ‘the possibility of electrifying the Bidston to Wrexham line (back then operated by First North Western) and adding it to the Merseyrail Electrics system is also being considered.’ Well another 11 years on there is no sign of this getting off the ground.

The ‘£16m’ Liverpool South Parkway got a mention – trouble is it actually cost £32m!

Separately in this edition of modern railways the infamous merseytram project is covered and back in 2003 it was still a live project. The article tells us that the then Secretary of State for Transport had approved £170m towards the £225m cost of Line 1 to Kirkby and the Liverpool City Centre lines. Of course Merseytram came to a rather sticky end when the then Labour Government gave up on the project (probably because of Merseyside’s dysfunctional local governance) and pulled its contribution.

So we have moved forward 10 years to 2003, some things have happened but many have not and pipe dreaming is still a significant factor it would seem. But what about Southport AGAIN? Still no mention of upgrading its eastern and northern rail access or reinstating the Burscough Curves. My recollection is that such matters got a great deal of tea and sympathy, when raised by Sefton Councillors, but in reality Merseytravel seemed hardly aware that it was the Transport Authority for this important seaside town at the north of its empire.

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