Maghull – The Albany Cinema, The Beatles & Lidl

The article on the Guardian/Observer website – linked below – caught my eye because it involves the Beatles and Lidl:-

www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/aug/30/threatened-beatles-cinema-needs-a-lidl-help-from-its-friends?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

The former Albany Cinema in Maghull, which was renamed twice to Astra and then Apollo, closed many years ago but its link with the article above is that when demolished it became and still is a Lidl store and that the Beatles also played there in the 1960’s.

This photo is of my old friend Jim Byrne, who is sadly no longer with us, at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema prior to its demolition.

The link below takes you to a Maghull & Lydiate U3A document which covers Maghull’s local blue plaque scheme. If you scroll through it you’ll reach the section about the Beatles plaque on the present Lidl building which celebrates the Beatles appearing at the Albany Cinema:-

www.maghull-scene.co.uk/docs/Maghull%20and%20Lydiate%20U3A_Blue%20Plaques.pdf

And finally, how apt bearing in mind what this blog posting is about – the Beatles liveried Merseyrail train at Maghull Station:-

Government to Act on Pavement parking?

Readers of this blog site won’t be surprised that I’m very much in favour of tackling the scourge of pavement parking although I also think such a move needs to go hand in hand with tackling cycles being ridden on pavements too, other than by small children.

The link below is to the Government’s consultation on the matter:-

www.gov.uk/government/consultations/managing-pavement-parking

My most recent blog/rant on the matter is available via the link blow:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/08/03/pavements-r-4-pedestrians/

But and it’s a BIG but even if the law/guidance is changed will Councils and/or the Police actually enforce? History seems to indicate they won’t as the powers that be do little or nothing now with the regulations they can use as far as I can see. Just think how much trouble would it actually be for a passing police vehicle/council enforcement officer, not already on an urgent call of course, to stop and ticket vehicles parked on pavements or even to tackle anti-social bike riding on them? I appreciate that the present regulations may fall between the Police and Councils but surely if they wanted to sort this out they could have done without Government issuing new regulations/passing new laws?

Well anyway you have the link to the Government consultation so let Government know how you feel.

In whose best interests are our government promoting a return to working in offices?

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53942542

Well now, apart from thinking at first this seems more like Russian socialist tractor factory ‘advice’ i.e. do it or else, my more sober reaction was why are the Tories saying get back to your offices?

Sage advice I was given in politics and indeed life many moons ago was to understand how to react to a situation you need to know, as far as possible, why what you are reacting to is being said in the first place. So let’s look at the possible motivations:-

* To make public transport more sustainable and for it to require less subsidy – good one
* To help businesses which rely on office buildings (sandwich shops etc.) – good one
* To get people out in their cars driving to work – No, goes against climate change requirements
* To help mental well being – Unlikely as there will as many benefits as disbenefits
* Because employers want it – No, as many will not as they’re eyeing up saving money on office space

Now how about the cynical reason? Those who fund the Tory Party are rich property owners who stand to lose a lot if office space stops being used/rented out at the same scale as before lockdown. Oh yes, you can bet they’ve been lobbying hard and who pays the piper etc. etc. Of all the reasons this will be the main one although unspoken of course by Ministers. You can bet your bottom Dollar, Euro or £ on it in my opinion.

Also on this subject, I happened upon the TUC Leader Frances O’Grady being interviewed on Radio 5 Live about this earlier this evening. It was on one of those infotainment/news programs that 5 Live puts out. As usual she was impressive and to my mind she makes the often media unsavvy trade union movement seem in touch with real people and I say that as a retired TU officer who often despairs of TU leaders in the media such as McCluskey. I have the feeling that she’s a Liberal and does not realise it. I hope I’ve not just caused her problems saying that!

Her contribution to the debate about whether office workers should be pushed/forced/cajoled back into their office blocks was well considered and balanced. And of course she was firm on the difficulties some workers will have working at home in small inappropriate spaces where they can’t get the peace and quiet they need.

So yes, like everything in life one size does not in any way fit all but where appropriate, given the right facilities, working from home has to be right for some people. Government should butt out except to ensure employment standards are met by the money saving employers and they should be thankful that almost by chance the appalling pandemic has potentially reduced climate changing air pollution via some folk no longer having to do the daily commute.

Liverpool & The Mersey – Cruising the Cut

Liverpool Waterfront Panorama

My good friend Andrew Blackburn has a bit of a thing about vlogs entitled ‘Cruising the Cut’ of which there are a great many. He showed me a few some time ago and you know there’s something mesmerising about them and I’ve now watched quite a few myself, although I’m told that therapy may help:-)

The reason I’m blogging about this is that in October 2019 the vloger, former TV presenter David Johns*, came to Liverpool to experience crossing the Mersey estuary in a narrow boat. And here’s his vlog of the experience which sits with his many other vlogs on You Tube:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v9wASAnIvY

Museum of Liverpool and Link from the docks to the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

I hope you enjoy this vlogger’s take on Liverpool & the Mersey and you never know you may even get hooked on Cruising the Cut!

* He used to work as a local TV news reporter for ITV in the south east of England. After 13 years of doing this and working in radio, he decided to chuck it all in and buy a narrowboat to cruise around the canals on.

David even does his own merchandise and yes I bought one of these mugs for Andrew.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Another take on why Merseytram didn’t make the grade

I’ve commented on this very significant urban transport debacle many times before but the other day I came across an article published in June 2008 in an international magazine called Tramways & Urban Transit. Yes I know, railway/tramway enthusiast niche issue……..

The article covered the ever more desperate attempts to breath new life into a project which had been all but killed off by the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling back in 2005 when he withheld £170m of government funding. Quoted in the article was former Labour MP (for Liverpool Riverside) Louise Ellman who said the project had failed because there was a ‘lack of clarity’ from the bidding partners.*

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

Louise was of course right. If memory serves the big issue for the Labour government of the day was concern over the funding package and rising costs. The article points towards Knowsley (Lab Council) & Liverpool (Lib Dem Council) being unwilling to cover further cost over-runs.

I was leader of Sefton Council at that time and can recall the tortuous process of trying to get Merseytram going through 2004 to 2009, but where the article is silent is with regard to another big issue which led directly to what Louise Ellman called the ‘lack of clarity’. I refer to the destination of the first line – Kirkby. I took the view, as did many others on Sefton Council and indeed politicians across the wider Mersey Region at the time, that the first line should go to the airport. Liverpool John Lennon Airport was in our view the obvious destination to start a tramway system on Merseyside but our voices were lost as Merseytravel was determined the first destination should be Kirkby. We had nothing against Kirkby but it already had a 15 minute Merseyrail service which simply needed extending to a 2nd station in that Town, whereas the airport had no rail/tramway connection and indeed it still doesn’t.

One of the ‘pulls’ towards Kirkby for the 1st Merseytram line was a proposed and huge TESCO/Everton FC redevelopment in that Town but that plan fell over it’s own hurdles with Everton now likely to he headed to a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock at some point yet to be determined.

The other thing not mentioned in the article is the position of Wirral Council. They were hardly big supporters of Merseytram because being on the other side of the River Mersey they would be highly unlikely to see any benefit from the project at all. Maybe they and their residents still harked back to the first Mersey Tunnel which was supposed to have trams running through it to Birkenhead as well as road vehicles. Of course that never happened so once bitten (even though back in the 1930’s) twice shy?

Anyway, on with the thrust of the article, having given a bit of the local political background, as it was written on the basis that then (in 2008) Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly** had offered to revisit the stalled/virtually failed Merseytram project. In effect she was asking Merseytravel to come up with a new more viable scheme. At this point Merseytravel still had another 2 years to enact the powers given to it by Parliament to build the first phase of the tram system.

Sadly, of course, Merseysiders will know that no such viable plan was put forward and in 2010 the powers lapsed.

To me the project was a lesson in how not to plan major public infrastructure. It seems obvious now, as it should have been then, that the partners in the project needed to have a common view as to how it would be taken forward and as I think I’ve shown above there was no such common view. My feeling is that Merseytravel launched into the Merseytram project with far too many loose ends trailing behind it, hoping that all would be ‘alright on the night’ so to speak – It never was and probably was never going to be.

The irony is that within the same magazine there’s a celebration of NET (Nottingham Express Transit) which had won ‘Light Rail Operator of the year – 2007’ as it had been able to gain government support for it’s system (first opened March 2004) on the basis of it being clearly robust and well supported. I’ve travelled on NET; it is indeed a good system and I hope that I’m not just saying that as a Notts born lad.

A Nottingham NET Tram at the Phoenix Park terminus.

* The bidding partners were Merseytravel (the passenger transport body for Merseyside), Liverpool City Council, St. Helens Borough Council, Knowsley Borough Council, Sefton Borough Council & Wirral Borough Council.

** Ruth Maria Kelly is a former British Labour Party politician, serving as Member of Parliament for Bolton West from 1997 until she stood down in 2010 – Wikipedia

Merseyrail – First 508’s Going for Scrap

Merseyrail Class 508 EMU at Maghull Station

Well it had to happen as more new Class 777 EMU’s arrive on the Merseyrail system but it’s always sad when long-serving trains go to the scrap yard. The link below (to You Tube) shows the first 2 Class 508’s on their last journey:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K3h_fE1SwE

I then realised I’d photoed one of the 508’s that went for scrap on 16th August at Maghull Station back in June 2015 – it’s the photo at the head of this posting.

If you check out the detail of the You Tube posting there’s a link to an interesting blog site called Engineering FOCUS – engineeringfocusblog.blogspot.com/2020/08/end-of-line-nearing-for-merseyrails.html

Just one thought, which I know is on other minds too, will early scrapping of the 508’s and 507’s leave Merseyrail short of rolling stock if a problem pops up with the new Class 777’s akin to the situation Northern found themselves in not so long ago?

If you’d like to see a Class 777 on a test run there’s one below in a You Tube video taken at Birkdale station:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_SPoSC9OSY

And finally, for those of you with longer memories here’s yet another You Tube link about the former Merseyrail Class 502 EMU’s which were replaced by the Class 507/508’s between 1978 and 1980

www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbN-Yixo2N0