Aintree to Bootle – The former North Mersey Branch

Looking east along the North Mersey Branch in the direction of the former Ford Station from Hawthorne Road, Bootle in 2014.

Here’s a fascinating collection of old photos on You Tube showing the now long-mothballed North Mersey Branch railway from Aintree to Bootle in its latter working days.

About once every 5 years or so there’s talk about the branch being opened up again for Merseyrail passenger services but nothing seems to happen.

3 thoughts on “Aintree to Bootle – The former North Mersey Branch

  1. Bob Jungels says:

    I walked along this in 2008 as part of a dissertation study. The photos I took will still be on an old pen drive somewhere. Let me know if you’d like to send you them (providing I can find them!).

    I recently emailed Merseytravel about this, to which I received quite a blunt and negative response about “the lack of a business case”.
    To which I naturally retorted that it is THEY, as the public transport body for Merseyside, that should be DEVELOPING the business case, not waiting for some kind of social/economic miracle to suddenly happen, out of the blue.
    As with any new station development, there needs to be some sort of trigger. Something that makes it a ‘no-brainer’.

    Maghull North and the housing estate next to it is a perfect example, and something we should see more of in the country – i.e. new housing development intertwined with robust public transport provision.
    Midge Hall is another example of a new housing development being built near a line, but in this case, the development in question isn’t quite close enough to trigger the ‘no brainer’ clause (even though the edge of the site is only around 400m away from the proposed station). This, together with this relative close proximity to Leyland station (but not so for those on foot I would add), and the work required on the existing Ormskirk branch line, make the case slightly less straight forward than something like Maghull North, which had no issues in squeezing in an extra stop along the line, without disrupting its 15 min frequency, or creating any other kind of disruption to the rest of the network (i.e. the Kirkby line etc). In other words, it was seamless.

    The issue with the North Mersey Branch seem to me as if they simply couldn’t generate a significant enough Cost-Benefit ratio, in other words, it will cost more to build and run than it will to generate profit from patronage.
    Is this because they assume people who live near the line, twixt Aintree and Bootle, would rather drive or catch a bus into Liverpool?
    Do they also assume that everyone who currently works in the enormous employment site of (and around) Bridle Road can drive and/or doesn’t require public transport to get there?
    Look at it this way, if you live in or near the city centre and work at that site, would you really choose to take the bus over the train, if there was a station on Bridle Road?

    Additionally, if the service ran straight through up to Ormskirk, you are now enabling those who live twixt Aintree and Ormskirk to catch a train to the site. Not forgetting those who work in Bootle also – another major source of employment for the people of Sefton and to a lesser extent, West Lancs.
    Nevertheless, what the line does is open a (literally) new corridor – it opens up employment options (education too – High Baird). Moreover, it is providing PUBLIC transport where it is needed.

    If an employment area the size of Bridle Road doesn’t qualify as a necessary cause for a new station, then quite clearly, our public transport network isn’t really for the public.

    Now let’s throw another big equation into the mix.
    Dunnings Bridge Road.

    We all know where people are headed in the mornings between 7-9am, heading through Switch Island. They’re all headed in one direction – Liverpool, or Bootle. Either way, be it commuters or freight wagons, everyone heading down Dunnings Bridge Road in the morning is heading to the docks or into Liverpool. You can do all the research in the world but I can save you a bob by just telling you straight.
    Now, look at Dunnings Bridge on a map, look at the North Mersey Branch underneath it, and then look at Rimrose Valley Park.
    They’re all roughly running in a south-west to north-east direction, and all roughly parallel, but here’s the thing:

    One of them is currently running to capacity and is a massive Air Quality Disaster Zone.
    One of them is currently sitting idle, derelict, and completely wasting away.
    The other is a natural, beautiful urban park – a source of great civic pride for those who live near it – and a recreational/leisure destination in its own right.

    Now have a guess which one ‘transport authorities’ are considering developing?

    And herein lies the issue with Merseytravel. They are supposed to be the strategic transport body for the Liverpool City Region, and yet their vision is so limited and driven by economics, they simply can’t see beyond road-building and other road based solutions. The short-termism of the 1960s is well and truly alive and kicking in Britain (certainly regarding transport), and it shows absolutely no sign of abating, with such strong political will to build a bypass through Rimrose Valley. One way or another, they will make it happen.

    The only reason why the North Mersey Branch (and rail in general) isn’t considered worthy of investing is because, well, quite simply, the political will at the national level to refocus our transport priorities from road to rail simply isn’t there. It never has been. And it never will be unless we vote in a party committed to long-term investment in rail. If nationalisation is the way forward, then so be it. We all know who is backing this policy.

    Otherwise, without this political will, lines such as this one will continue remain dormant. The passenger and freight opportunities are there.
    There are obvious destination points for passengers (Bridle Road, Bootle), obvious origin points (the recent-ish housing near Hawthorne Road), as well as the existing areas along the line.

    There are obvious origins for freight – too obvious to mention, and as for destinations, well of course, the barrier here is to link up the line to the rest of the rail network. In order to achieve this, there would need to be full electrification of the Ormskirk-Preston branch, which in turn, brings this line into 21st century, utilises another very under-used section of network close to the city region, helps ease some of the burden currently facing the main freight lines (i.e. Canada Dock Branch onto the WCML and beyond), and perhaps even paves the way for the long overdue reopening of the Burscough Curves. All of this has massive (positive) knock-on effects for the general public.

    Whether you’re a driver or not, everyone benefits from greater public transport coverage – particularly rail if we’re more concerned about longer distances, as is this case with the Liverpool City Region – a fairly sprawled out region with a city centre that is relatively easy to negotiate on foot with tremendous need for a tram network, although of course, this would be a boost to the city also. See also Manchester for first-class tram coverage and provision. A transport system that really embodies social justice. This is what social justice should look like in a modern, civilized, Western society. No one is left behind. Everyone is part of the journey.

    You can forget your Equality and Diversity education bullshit.
    Investment in transport is investment in people.
    Investing in mobility is investment in liberty.

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