Merseytravel – Are they delivering?

Well according to their Chairperson, Liam Robinson, they are.

I reported on OPSTA’s (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers assn) public meeting a few days ago which was actually held in the community room of Southport Fire Station of all places. That posting was about the utterly appalling train service, or indeed the complete lack of a train service last week, on the Ormskirk Preston Line and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming Liam Robinson in any way for Northern’s terrible performance but he listened to stories of Northern’s Failures at the meeting (he was our guest speaker) and because he has an influence on Rail North those sad stories were heard and you never know……….

I quite like Liam’s handling of transport issues on Merseyside and I feel he has been a positive influence on what to me seemed to be struggling public sector organisation before he took the chair of it. Yes, I know we live it terribly tribal party political times and I’m expected to hate anyone who is not a Lib Dem; well I don’t think in traditional British political tribal terms………

Stadler Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Cllr. Robinson presented his vision of how bus services could be improved in the Liverpool City Region (beyond the present Bus Alliance with Arriva and Stagecoach) and he talked in very enthusiastic terms about the Class 777 Stadler trains that Merseytravel have ordered for the Merseyrail network. Without being prompted he also made reference to the potential to extend Merseyrail Northern Line beyond Ormskirk to Burscough and even Preston although he was clear that he was not promising that it would happen. To be honest passengers on that line would welcome it being run using the Titfield Thunderbolt of Ealing Comedy fame as surely no one could run it as badly as Northern have been doing.

The other rail thing that he touched on and which is vital to expanding the Merseyrail system is the lack of capacity at Liverpool Central Station. If that issue is not seriously addressed in the near future there’s every possibility, in my view, that Merseyrail will be stuck with a bottle-neck which will impede the running of our local railway.

So yes I was pleased to sit and listen to Liam at the meeting and readers who have a liking for tribal politics will have to be disappointed with me.

Northern Trains – Could the Ormskirk-Preston Line be the most poorly performing in the UK?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Well if it’s not I would hate to be a passenger on one that is even worse.

Last night I attended an open meeting of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) and the stories of absolute chaos on this rail route were sad and numerous. An 80-year-old lady told the meeting how she can’t get to hospital appointments in Preston due to cancellations and the fact that some of the rail replacement buses don’t call at all the stations on the line! She lives in Croston and without the train, as she does not drive, getting to Preston is very difficult indeed.

Burscough Junction Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line.

If I’m correctly informed, which I think I am, there have no trains on the line at all this week so far. What’s more, I hear that Northern are resistant to paying for taxis when the trains and rail replacement buses both fail to provide a service.

Northern are supposed to be operating an hourly service on the line since the May 2018 timetable changes but it looks like they are interpreting this as 1 a week! We heard stories of passengers missing exams, having to take time off work or even getting to the stage where their jobs may be at risk because of this poorly performing rail franchise.

Unsurprisingly, Northern is reputed to be losing a lot of money on the franchise and there seems little confidence in those who know about the local rail industry that anything is going to change much in the foreseeable future. Will Northern have to pull out of the franchise, or will it have to be taken away from them?

It’s a sorry story indeed but it is ruining the lives of passengers who rely on Northern’s trains to get to work, to hospital, do their shopping or just run their day to day lives and frankly it is just not good enough. And the big question is what are the MP’s representing constituents along the Ormskirk – Preston line doing about it? One suggestion at the meeting was to try to replicate what Tim Farron the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale did when Northern failed spectacularly on the Lakes Line from Oxenhome to Windermere – he helped organise an alternative rail provider and made the DfT/Northern pay for it.

OPSTA are going to be banging the drum very hard indeed to get local politicians to take action. Oh, and by the way, there’s a clear suspicion that when Northern is in trouble they will often choose the Ormskirk – Preston Line to cancel trains – It would be interesting to get to the bottom of that train of thought.

Rough Sleeping on Merseyside

This is always a worrying matter but particularly so at this time of the year with plummeting temperatures.

The Liverpool Echo has an informative article by Liam Thorpe on rough sleeping on its website which is well worth a read – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/official-number-homeless-people-merseyside-15447648

The Sefton Borough figures are interesting to note as I guess you will be as surprised as I am with them.

Extract from Echo articleSefton’s figures show there are 9 rough sleepers in the borough and 40 homeless people in temporary shelter.

I fully expected them to be higher, although the difficulty in recording accurately has to be taken into account.

Rough sleeping shames a civilised society and the work of charities like Shelter is vital.

As Northern Rail starts another week of misery for its passengers……………….

End of the line from Wigan, the Merseyrail service to Liverpool is accessed under the bridge.

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/diary-commuter-what-really-like-15427245

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.

I’m informed that this week is going to be yet another commuting challenge on many Northern routes because of the lack of availability of trains i.e. too many of them are bust. And the reason they are bust? Well for those of you who are interested in the technicalities my understanding is this. The shortage of trains follows a high number of wheel tread damage ‘flats’* incurred over the last 7 days following a deterioration of the railhead due to extreme autumn conditions. What’s extreme about this Autumn compared to any other?

Northern is predicting, so I’m told, a lack of around 20 trains on their network resulting in shorter more crowded trains along with full bus replacement services on the Ormskirk – Preston line today.

Northern expect, or more precisely their passengers expect, to experience crowding on many routes particularly into Manchester and Liverpool.

When will this madness end and Northern’s put out of their misery and the misery they cause to their passengers on a daily basis?

* Oddly on Remembrance Sunday when getting a Merseyrail train to Liverpool from Maghull the train I got on seemed to have wheel flats as you could hear it banging as the wheels turned. Not only that but whilst waiting for my train another passed through Maghull heading for Ormskirk and I could swear it had wheel flats too. Is there something to this extreme autumn conditions claim and what on earth is it?

Troubled Southport & Ormskirk Hospitals NHS Trust – More staffing difficulties

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/we-feel-silenced-fear-losing-15431217

My recollection is that this NHS Trust has gone through testing times in the recent past and issues such as these bullying allegations can’t be anything but more bad news.

An organisation like the NHS needs to have exemplary industrial relations so why do we keep hearing of staff working for it being unhappy with and having a lack of confidence in NHS whistleblowing processes?