Maghull North Railway Station – The proposed new station gets in Merseytravel’s top twelve (at number 10) of projects it wants to take forward – But what does that mean?

I have long campaigned for a second railway station to be built in Maghull because the present station is getting beyond capacity. It is accessed by narrow roads and its car park is usually full to bursting. A new station to the north of Maghull would open up much wider and more convenient travel opportunities.

In reality the project has been talked about for many many, years but it never got to a ‘let’s do it stage’ until the worst possible time i.e. when the latest financial recession knocked us all for 6 from 2007 onwards. It is still the case that part funding of the station will be via a developer contribution from building on the Ashworth South Site which the proposed station will share. This site is also known as that of the former Moss Side Hospital which has remained derelict ever since it was decided not to build a new prison there.

So where are we now? I have been asking questions of Merseytravel every few months via my good friend Cllr. John Dodd who sits on Merseyside’s Integrated Transport Authority but the answers have always been negative in that money is the barrier. However, some almost good news is that the project is firmly in Merseytravel’s top twelve of projects that it wants to take forward bearing in mind very limited resources. Does this mean it will happen? Well, I suppose you could say that it remains aspirational rather than a ‘yes it will’.

This is how Merseytravel see the project:-

‘New stations on the existing network offer the potential to improve the accessibility and coverage of the Merseyrail network. They also provide the opportunity for the rail network to respond to other development and regeneration of various areas of Merseyside and the new patterns of trip making that will occur. The proposals are to provide railway station with two platforms, lifts and stepped (or ramped) access, a ticket office, two on-street bus stops, cycle routes from School Lane and Park Lane and a car Park of about 200 spaces. The railway service will be typically every 15 minutes in each direction to (1) Liverpool and (2) Ormskirk. Vehicular access is already provided to the site via an aborted scheme involving the Ministry of Justice and Sefton Council.’

And the estimated cost of construction? – £6,830,000m

So will we see this new station really take shape soonish? Well a number of factors come into play here. Firstly, will the development of the Ashworth South site for housing come on stream soon providing a financial contribution from the developer towards the project? Secondly, will the new Joint Authority proposal which effectively sees off Merseytravel as an independent transport body (and all but brings back Merseyside County Council) lead to the money being snatched to fund a Liverpool based project instead? This has to be a big worry and is one of the reasons we Lib Dems in Sefton are very much opposed to the Joint Authority with its potential for a Liverpool-centric money hoover that could leave Sefton with little more than crumbs from the table.

Keep campaigning is the only way forward to my mind because one day we may just succeed in getting Maghull’s second and much needed railway station.

My thanks to colleagues at OPSTA for providing some of the information I have used in this posting.

Maghull Station Canopy

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I took this photo a couple of weeks ago and it is clearly the case that this historic canopy over the Liverpool bound platform must have been in danger of collapsing based on the temporary prop that has been put in place.

I am pursuing this via Merseytravel/Merseyrail and very much hope that permanent repairs will be made. We don’t want to see a modern canopy replacing this excellent Victorian one that Frank Hornby himself must have stood under.

More news when I get it.

Bells Lane, Lydiate – 12 months to renew a road sign!

I reported this illuminated and down at heel road sign pole for replacement in September 2012.

I reported this illuminated and down at heel road sign pole for replacement in September 2012.

September 2013 - A new pole finally appears!

September 2013 – A new pole finally appears!

I was despairing of this pole ever being replaced, but he who waits (a long time) etc. etc. It is supposed to be a warning sign for approaching motorists of the canal swing bridge which you can see in the background. First the old illuminated pole lost its sign (to a scrap metal thief?) and then the pole, which was hardly looking well looked like it was about to become a hazard itself rather than warning of one.

In September last year I asked Sefton Council to replace it and we are finally almost there in that the new pole is in with just the warning sign to go on it. You don’t have to be in a hurry in Sefton it seems!

Pilling Lane Steps, Lydiate – A Brief update

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This is me at the steps leading up from the Leeds Liverpool Canal to Pilling Lane in Lydiate today.

Readers will know that my Lydiate Parish Council colleagues and I have been pushing for the steps to be repaired and reopened without delay but that it now looks as though the Canal & River Trust will not be undertaking the required work until January 2014 at the earliest, as the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper reported a very recently.

I had another look today and it seems that the Trust may have given up the unequal struggle, at least partly, to stop folk using the steps because the fencing at the bottom of the steps has now been removed leaving only the fence at the top, which I have frequently see people climb over.

The steps are very much misaligned (below where I am stood in the photo) due to what seems to be a water erosion problem below them. Clearly, investigation of the problem when the work starts may lead to it being a bigger issue than it may seem to be at present. Bearing in mind that the road here was closed for repairs a few years ago due to a similar problem I fear that things could get worse before they are resolved.

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Sefton/West Lancs liaison or not!

Readers will know I have long been critical of Labour run Sefton Council’s approach to its Local Plan and the present public consultation which will almost certainly lead to high grade agricultural land being lost forever under concrete and tarmac. As an environmental campaigner I am utterly horrified.

But one of my related concerns, which I expressed at a Sefton Council meeting not so long ago, was with regard to my concern about the lack of detailed joint working with West Lancashire Borough Council as the two councils have been putting their neighbouring Local Plans together. So, when an e-mail recently hit my in box telling me that West Lancs has concerns about Sefton’s Draft Local Plan I think you will understand why I have worried about what I see as seemingly superficial liaison between the Councils. The e-mail was directing me to a letter sent by Planners at West Lancs Council to Planners at Sefton. It is rather long so I am only copying the pertinent points:-

“there are three areas of concern that West Lancashire Borough Council would like to raise with Sefton Council and request that Sefton Council look at how potential impacts could be mitigated through the Sefton Local Plan or that a particular allocation be reconsidered.
Firstly, there are a number of proposed development allocations (in Policies SR4 and SR5) that are located adjacent, or very close, to the borough boundary with West Lancashire, particularly in the Southport, Churchtown, Ainsdale and Formby areas. While West Lancashire Borough Council does not object to these allocations, we would wish to ensure that all potential impacts of these sites on land and communities within West Lancashire have been considered and that policy requirements for mitigation for any negative impacts on the West Lancashire side of the boundary are included within the Sefton Local Plan.
Secondly, those same allocations have the potential to generate fairly significant traffic travelling through West Lancashire on the A570 and/or the local moss roads in the Western Parishes. Policy SR10 is supported when it prioritises “Improved access to Southport from the east [A570 corridor]” but West Lancashire Borough Council would welcome further detail or discussion on what these improvements may be, especially where the improvements are needed within West Lancashire. In particular, the impact of increased traffic on the A570 on Ormskirk must be considered, as there is already significant congestion within Ormskirk and through-traffic travelling between Southport and the M58 contributes to this. Indeed, one of the reasons that the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 does not focus more development in the Ormskirk area is the added congestion this would likely cause, and so West Lancashire Borough Council would have concerns if additional traffic generated in Sefton were to add to this congestion in Ormskirk. Regard should also be had to the forthcoming West Lancashire Highways & Transport Masterplan from Lancashire County Council on this matter.
Thirdly, West Lancashire Borough Council wishes to express concern regarding the allocation of the two sites to the north of Lydiate as reserve housing sites (SR4.47 and SR4.48). These sites would be released from the Green Belt and, in the long-term, would likely be developed. The release of this land from the Green Belt would close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton / Holt Green. The village of Holt Green to the south of Aughton is only 1.5 km from the existing built up area of Maghull/ Lydiate. The release of these sites from the Green Belt would reduce this gap to less than 1 km. The gap to the main built-up area of Aughton would be reduced to 2 km. As such, given the potential impact on the purposes of including land within the Green Belt (in particular that of preventing neighbouring towns from merging into one another), West Lancashire Borough Council would ask Sefton Council to reconsider the allocation of these sites and review whether alternative sites would have less of an impact on the purposes of the Green Belt, for example, sites on the western side of Maghull which do not form part of a strategic gap and are partially contained by the existing built-up area. It is West Lancashire Borough Council’s view that the release of sites SR4.47 and SR4.48 would be better considered as part of a cross-boundary strategic Green Belt review given that it affects a strategic gap between two settlements in separate authorities.”

Now, does this or does it not indicate a lack of detailed joint working? I think I know the answer as will other environmental campaigners.

With regard to points being made by West Lancs Council a couple are fascinating. Regarding their 2nd point i.e. ‘Improved access to Southport from the east’. Why on earth does that need spelling out to West Lancs? Are they really saying that they have not heard of the project to reconnect the Southport/Wigan and Ormskirk/Preston railway lines at Burscough or the long talked about Ormskirk road by-pass! And on their 3rd point they clearly have concerns about the two ‘reserved’ development sites in Lydiate and the effect that building on these sites will have because it could well ‘close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton’.

My fears about Sefton not working closely with West Lancs over the Local Plan seem to be coming true but bearing in mind the ridiculous Merseyside Joint Authority proposals, which do not include West Lancashire (see my guest posting from Cllr. Nigel Ashton of yesterday), should I be surprised? We seem to have an invisible ‘Berlin Wall’ being built around Merseyside and it will be to the detriment of both Sefton and West Lancashire’s communities.

South West Lancashire – a bit of local history about the emergence of bus services in the 1920’s

The other day a local chap with extensive knowledge of buses showed me a book called Pioneer Bus Services in South West Lancashire by TB Maund FCILT.

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I am a trains man personally but this book had a couple of fascinating references to early bus services serving the Ormskirk and district area.

Take for example a reproduced advert for Contour Motor Services who on 6th July 1922 were launching an improved service between Aintree, Maghull and Ormskirk on Thursdays. It says:-

‘A special bus will leave Aintree for Ormskirk at 12-0 noon and travel via Old Roan, Netherton and Sefton returning from Ormskirk at 4-0 p.m. Fares to Ormskirk from Netherton 1/- ; Sefton Church 10d’

Also, from 2nd July the same year ‘A special bus will leave Aintree at 5-50 p.m. for Sefton Church, returning at 6-10 p.m. & 8-15 p.m. Fare – Aintree to or from Sefton, 5d.’

Then from 19th April 1923 Bretherton’s Motor Service advertised an Ormskirk, Maghull and Aintree service. From Aintree it called at Old Roan, Wood End (southern end of Maghull), Red Lion Bridge, Maghull Brook (boundary between Maghull & Lydiate), Swan Hotel (Aughton), Stanley Arms (Aughton), Long Lane and Ormskirk. This service seemed to run most days of the week, including Sundays, although not very frequently.

An interesting read and it certainly filled some gaps in my local history knowledge.