Liverpool Airport in crisis? – Needing all the ‘Friends of Liverpool Airport’ it can get

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-john-lennon-airport-jla-6496398

The Liverpool Echo has the story and a very worrying one it is too! Can it really be the case that our popular local airport is going bust?

It’s often strange how things can happen together as only a couple of days before seeing the Echo headline I had picked up a leaflet about the Friends of Liverpool Airport and friends are certainly what it needs now.

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www.fola.org.uk/

Well I must admit that I had not previously heard of this friends of group but if I was ignorant of it maybe others are too? How did I find out about it? I found a leaflet in one of those display boxes that you often find in town halls, leisure centres GP surgeries etc. while I was awaiting the start of a meeting.

But back to the big issue here, with losses of over £7m per year what is to happen to Liverpool John Lennon Airport?

Southport’s Tramways

There’s not a huge amount on the web about Southport’s former tramway system and I am talking here about the network of street trams not the Pier Tram which still happily trundles up and down Southport Pier. But there is a fascinating little book published by the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Trust ‘Merseyside Transport’ which with regard to Southport says this:-

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www.mtps.co.uk/

Southport’s tramway was really two systems, operated by a company and corporation until 1918, when they were rolled into one under municipal control. Southport Tramways Company opened the first lines with horse cars from Birkdale Station to Botanic Gardens via Roe Lane in 1873, and via Cambridge Road to Botanic Gardens in 1878.

A second tramway system was begum by the Birkdale and Southport Tramway Co. which opened lines from London Square to Kew Gardens in 1883 and a branch via Sefton St. to the Crown Hotel Birkdale in 1884. It goes on to give more details through to the last cars running on 31st December 1934.

I took the photo below on a visit to Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire back in 2008. It shows a large model of a Birkdale Station to London Square Tram:-

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www.tramway.co.uk/

Talking of models have a look at this link to fascinating model of Southport trams.

://blackpooltram.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/southport-in-day-of-tram.html

By the way the Lib Dem submission to Sefton Council’s recent 3 month consultation period on its draft Local Plan said this:-

The Pier Tram needs to be extended through the shopping area to Southport Station and on to Central 12 Retail Park.

Sefton Central Area Committee – round 3 of the muddle in the middle!

I will try not to have another rant about this ridiculously large Area Committee which covers around a third or more of the population of Sefton Borough but it still does not hang together despite this being the best of the first 3 meetings of the Committee.

Last night's Sefton Central Area Committee meeting in Formby

Last night’s Sefton Central Area Committee meeting in Formby

It was dominated, at least as far as the public was concerned, with Formby traffic matters but at least the meeting was in Formby this time! But this led to an odd situation when it came to a vote on a particular traffic matter in Proctor Road Formby. I will not rehearse the rights and wrongs of the report before the Area Committee as frankly I know nothing of this very local matter because I represent a community miles away from it. However, the 3 Formby councillors from Harrington Ward clearly have been living the matter for months because there have been 3 rounds of consultation with the residents about a parking matter.

The interesting point though was the vote because the Chair effectively called for it to be of just those 3 members when previously this massive Area Committee has all voted on everything. Now don’t get me wrong I am all for localism but I wonder if what happened was constitutional? And I was not the only one sat there wondering that!

Flooding and coastal erosion were big issues in Formby and Hightown following much damage as a consequence of the winter storms of the past few weeks. Council reports on this worrying problem are bound to follow but it was Formby and Hightown Parish Councils leading the charge for action.

On an amusing aside I inadvertently referred to Inspector Phil Hatton of Merseyside Police as Cllr. Hatton! Shades of Militant there with my slip of the tongue but I hastily corrected myself amongst much humour around the Committee.

It was nice to see the 10 Parish Councils, which are all within the Central part of the Borough, making their presence felt because frankly they have been shunted into a siding in recent times by Sefton Council and its leading councillors in my view. A re-write of the Borough’s Parish Charter is now on the cards formally and despite being given credit for the original Charter last night I am happy to see it updated so long as the Borough does not try to water it down of course.

Can this Area Committee work? Well no it can’t; all that can happen is that it is able to work as best it can. It is and always will be a dog’s breakfast of a muddle that the Labour-run Council just needs to admit it is not fit for purpose.

Southport to London Trains – If only!

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My good friend Cllr. Tony Dawson of Dukes ward in Southport sent me a copy of a railway timetable from 1966 which shows how well served Southport once was in terms of rail connections.

Cllr. Tony Dawson

Cllr. Tony Dawson

Of course it still has an excellent service to Liverpool but has sadly lost its line to Preston altogether. The line to the east from our local seaside resort goes to Manchester via Wigan and let’s face it it is a second rate service with second rate coaching stock.

John Pugh MP for Southport

Dr John Pugh, the MP for Southport, has been raising this matter very publicly and readers may recall his appearance on a TV programme in December 2012 about the poor quality of Pacer Trains used on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line and indeed many other lines in the North West of England.

Merseytram – Finally killed off in 2013 – But the City Region’s public transport problems remain

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The ill-fated Mersytram project, which the last Labour Government was having none of, was finally killed off in 2013 and we are told that investigations into it are ongoing as part of the wide ranging probes into Merseytravel generally. But the death of this project and the time and money wasted upon it leaves Liverpool and its commuter belt with unresolved public transport problems which will do harm to the local economy by holding it back.

In my view the big transport issues in the Liverpool City Region are resolvable via investment in the already established and highly successful heavy rail system that serves the City and some of its commuter belt.

Two of the heavy rail electrified lines need to be extended to their logical ends as opposed to the present artificial ones:-

* The Northern Line which presently terminates at Ormskirk needs to extended first to Burscough and then ultimately to Preston.

* The Northern Line route to Kirkby needs to extended through to Wigan, with a potential spur into Skelmersedale.

A new heavy rail/tram line is required as follows:-

* Liverpool Airport needs to be rail connected to Liverpool South Parkway Station or a connecting tram from that railway station needs to be built to the airport.

The following lines should be electrified and see enhanced services:-

* The Bidston to Wrexham line.

* The Southport to Wigan line.

The Burscough Curves need to be reconnected so that Southport to Preston and Southport to Ormskirk rail journeys are again possible.

To me these objectives are straight forward but on Merseyside the obvious got muddled into what may have been seen as a competition with other major cities to get a tram system established. Yes, trams were then the new fashion and Liverpool’s great rival Manchester along with cities like Nottingham and Sheffield have had great success in establishing and then extending new tram lines. But, was it right to propose trams for Liverpool when it already had a highly successful heavy rail electrified system in place? I think the planning in the 1990’s and early 2000’s was wrong and Liverpool ended up following the fashionable route towards trams instead of doing the obvious and developing what it had already started in the 1970’s when the heavy rail systems were brought together via the underground tunnels.

In some ways the tram plan was also too insular as it did not address the need to easily get people people into the City from a commuter belt that stretches well beyond the rather odd Merseyside boundaries. It was a plan to better move around the present population of a small city rather than a plan to spread Liverpool’s wings into its wast commuter belt in Lancashire and Cheshire.

And the lessons for this are all to clear from Greater Manchester where public transport developments have been logical and well supported by Governments of all colours. It may be hard to learn from an arch rival city but the fact is that Manchester has played its transportation cards well and Liverpool needs to learn from that.

Merseyside’s big advantage is its network of heavy rail electrified lines. They simply need to be developed so please lets get on with it.