What is consultation actually all about?

I think it fair to say that the public sector is generally poor at genuine consultation (partly because proper consultation costs too much) and it often is simply engaged in what is no more than information sharing (telling folks what is going to be done) and box ticking. So telling folk what is going to be done to their community, neighbourhood etc. is often dressed up as ‘consultation’ when in reality the comments made may well be (politely) ignored/rejected.

I recall a ‘consultation’ event being held at Maghull Town Hall a few years back about the then proposed building of what is now the newish Maghull North Station. That consultation was, at face Value, useful but I got the distinct impression that there were always going to be good reasons not to take forward suggestions which were made by attendees at that event. I blogged about it at the time – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/14/maghull-consultation-response-on-towns-2nd-and-new-railway-station/

My somewhat cynical response was ‘and it does make you wonder whether Merseytravel and their partners (Network Rail & Merseyrail) really do want to hear alternative views at all. Seems some things are sadly set in stone.’ If you look back at the suggestions which I noted were made whilst I was at the event

* The draft design of the station is too boxy and bland – Don’t want to end up as nondescript as Aintree Station when it was modernised.
* Will some of the circular buses be diverted there because the bus access along narrow roads is poor to the present Maghull Station?
* Can there be a memorial included to reflect the historic Moss Side Hospital that was on the site before? This refers to the pioneering work done there during and after the First World War into shell shock.
* Can the old Maghull Station be renamed Maghull Hornby to differentiate it from Maghull North?
* Can Maghull North name be changed to say Maghull Moss Side for example?

you could say that only one was actually followed up on – the memorial and an excellent memorial it is too. The others were rejected (or not even taken seriously?) it seems and there may well have been others I did not hear about.

So why start banging on about ‘consultation’ now Robertson?

Well my good friend Roy Connell, once a fellow Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor, has public sector consultation buzzing around his head presently.

In his case it involves consultation by office of the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner regarding the amount of extra precept (an addition to our Council tax bills) it wants to charge in the financial year 2020/2021. Roy’s view, if I’ve understood him correctly, is the consultation has in effect been all but tokenistic. 2072 people expressed a view on the matter via either being telephoned directly or through them commenting on the matter via the survey (no, like you I didn’t know about it) on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website. When you consider that Merseyside has a population of approximately 1.4m then a couple of thousand taking part in a survey/consultation is a very small percentage.

We live in a representative democracy where we elect people to make significant decisions about our country, region and community. The idea being that if those decisions displease us we can kick out the representatives who made them. But we seem to have developed, at least in recent years, a desire to consult folk over decisions about public policy. At face value this is a great idea but in reality aren’t the consultations rather meaningless if the vast majority of folk know nothing of them or if those being surveyed may not be taken much notice of unless they say things which fit with the policy direction being consulted on?

Southport and its railways in 1959

I’m returning once again to the photographic collection of Neil Reston, a former BR employee, whose historic railway photos were passed on to me in 2020 by his family.

This posting concerns Southport where I’ve identified 6 photos which I think will have been taken in 1959 but stand to be corrected if anyone reading this blog thinks otherwise.

Southport Whit- Monday

Former West Lancs Railway Station

There is no commentary with the photos other than the last 2 where I have included the wording in the photo album. Maybe it would be a reasonable assumption to think that they may all have been taken on Whit-Monday 1959? If we do that the date would be Monday 18th May. In the last but one shot what became a Merseyrail Class 502 EMU can be seen. I think the loco number on the lead photo is 44896, if so, here’s a link to the class of engine:-

railuk.info/steam/getsteam.php?row_id=9838

Corrections and further information very much appreciated.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Steaming back to Kirkby Loco – Book Review

I’m a Kirkby lad although I’ve not lived there since 1964. I’m talking about Kirkby-In-Ashfield Nottinghamshire by the way.

The other day I ordered a booklet titled ‘Steaming Back To Kirkby Loco – Poetry & Motion’ by Keith Murray and David Amos. To be honest I was not sure what would be mailed back to me but at £3.50 including postage it was worth a punt to try to reconnect myself with my childhood train watching with Grandad Walter Calladine at the Town’s former level crossing on Station Street. I’ve blogged about my memories of this previously and here’s a couple of links:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/01/29/where-i-caught-the-train-bug/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/07/20/the-place-where-it-all-started-kirkby-in-ashfield-station/

So to the booklet which I note has been supported in its production by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It includes quite a number of photos which I’d not seen before of Kirkby Motive Power Depot, the adjacent Kirkby-in-Asfield Station (East) and Summit Colliery. Many of these photos are in the Care of Kirkby Heritage Centre which has a shop unit on Kingsway in the Town. But the interesting twist in this booklet is that much of the story of the loco shed and those who worked at it is told using poetry and prose and it’s done very well too. There’s a colour photo on page 42 of The Station Street level crossing in the early 1960’s by Graham Upchurch with people standing at the gates watching and waiting for a train to pass and gates to open again. That shot could easily have me as a 4 to 6 year old and Grandad Walter in it.

My uncle Ken Calladine was I understand a driver on the railway and I think he was based at Kirkby Shed. Unfortunately I don’t know any detail of his work but maybe someone out there can fill in the blanks?

I enjoyed the booklet which really did reconnect me with my childhood in Kirkby and my lifelong love of trains. On the very last page there’s a couple of photos of Keith Murray’s OO scale model of Kirkby Loco Shed and Kirkby-in-Ashfield Station (East) at a 2019 Elizabethan Model Railway Society event. I’d really love to see that………. I’ve found a You Tube video from an exhibition held by the Society back in 2018 and if you run the video from 9 minutes in you’ll see the excellent Kirkby layout:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f6fRAAp0IQ

Well worth the read, if you have a connection with Kirkby-in-Ashfield. I gained my copy by sending a £3.50 cheque payable to Mine2Minds Education and included my contact details and address to David Amos, Mine2Minds Education, 46 Lawrence Avenue, Eastwood, NG16 3LD

And if you have a moment have a look and listen to this song on You Tube Video by Dave Goulder all about the famous Kirkby turntable accident:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hGxj0OdS2I

Cheshire Lines at the Old Roan

I’ve been lucky to come across the two photos* below of the Southport and Cheshire Lines Extension Railway at the Old Roan via a couple of fellow local railway enthusiasts.

Old Roan 49434 With The Returning SLS** Special 6th June 1959

Old Roan S&CLER A59 Bridge Demolition c1966

The S&CLER stations had closed to passenger trains back in January 1952 but rail access from the Liverpool end was retained until 1960 to serve private sidings on the site of Altcar & Hillhouse Station. Part of the curved embankment that the train in the first photo is travelling over is still in place behind the modern day ASDA Store and across the M57 Motorway. In the second photo sections of the rail bridge carrying the Liverppol – Ormskirk line over the A59 can be seen in the background.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

* I’m not able to credit the photographer/s as I’ve been unable so far to identify them. If anyone can assist I would appreciate it.

** Stephenson Locomotive Society

Maghull & Lydiate – The other serious knock-on effect of flooding

I’ve commented many times previously about the regular flooding of Sefton Lane/Bridges Lane due to the backing up of Dover’s Brook when it can’t empty out into the River Alt. This was the scene in December 2015 along Bridges Lane:-

A flooded Bridges Lane between Dovers Brook and the River Alt – when it all got too much in December 2015

Of course the flooding has happened a number of times since then, most recently within the last week. This is my most recent blog posting on the matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/09/29/river-alt-everything-drains-into-around-these-parts/

Cliff Mainey

But my reason for raising the matter again now, just after another really bad flooding event, is that I’ve been contacted by one Cliff Mainey. Cliff’s a former Maghull councillor and indeed former Mayor of Sefton Borough but it’s his experience as a local fireman which is relevant here. You see Cliff is of the view that an emergency call for Maghull/Lydiate answered from Buckley Hill Fire & Ambulance Station may have up to 6 extra minutes added to its journey if Bridges Lane/Sefton Lane is closed as it has been for a few days. If I’ve understood Cliff correctly this extra time will be caused by the emergency vehicle having to travel from Buckley Hill via Switch Island.

The point here is that this particular flooding site is far from new; I can recall floods there going back to the late 1960’s (when I moved into Maghull) although they were nowhere near as bad as they have been in recent years. So the question is why have the powers that be not been able to resolve the matter? And when you add in the angle which Cliff is now raising………………..

Cliff Mainey’s photo of Showrick Footbridge over the River Alt & flooded fields – Taken 26 01 21.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Shirdley Hill Station

Shirdley Hill Station – Summer 1938

The small rural West Lancashire community of Shirdley Hill lost its trains to Southport and in a southerly direction towards Liverpool on 26th September 1938. The line closed 21st January 1952. However, the tracks remained in place until 1964 as they were used for the storage of Southport’s excursion stock.

The line was built as the Southport and Preston Junction Railway and the village station was on Renacres Lane. The line was often referred to as the Barton Branch and it was and maybe still is famous for a train called the ‘Alcar Bob’ which was a very small steam locomotive with a single coach. The coach had driving controls at the rear end so there was no need to turn the train. The fireman would stay with the engine when the train was running coach first whilst the driver would of course be in the cab in the coach.

I recently purchased the summer 1938 photo in this posting of a two coach train at the station.

The next station to the north of Shirdley Hill would have been Heathey Lane Halt and south of it New Cut Lane Halt. The southern end of the line Line joined the Southport & Cheshire Lanes Extension Railway at Hillhouse Junction just to the north of Altcar & Hillhouse Station on the S&CLER. At the north end of the line it connected through to Butts Lane Halt, Meols Cop Station and into Southport or onwards towards Preston.

There is no trace of the former station now although I’m told that there’s a plaque which marks the site. The link below takes you to a previous posting of mine about the 7 mile long S&PJR from May 2020:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/31/haskayne-the-views-from-old-lane-old-moss-lane-railway-bridge/