An OPSTA meeting in Croston – So are things looking brighter on the recently appalling (for cancellations) Ormskirk – Preston line

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Croston is a lovely largish village which is somewhat isolated in public transport terms with few if any local bus services. And those that do run seem to be permanently under threat.

But what Croston does though have is a railway station on the Ormskirk – Preston line, a line that in the early 1980s was under threat of closure itself and the reason the then OPTA (Ormskirk Preston Travellers Assn) campaign group was formed. That battle was won although there were some amusing reminiscences at the meeting held last Wednesday about politician Den Dover having to leave a campaign meeting because his stance was not seen to be one that helped the then beleaguered line.

Croston Station

But as readers of this blog site will know the performance of Northern Trains on the line was in the utterly appalling category during 2018, indeed it got so bad that it made the BBC national TV news. That the BBC got hold of the story was down to OPSTA (notice the change of name to include Southport) and some very determined Croston residents. Thankfully performance has very much improved in recent weeks but OPSTA continues to monitor the on-time performance of every train and Northern know it.

A guest at the meeting was Cllr. Keith Iddon the Transport portfolio holder on Lancashire County Council. The impression he gave to the meeting was one of optimism for the Ormskirk – Preston Line. He clearly backs the idea of Merseyrail trains running through Ormskirk on to Preston, indeed if anything he came over as more optimistic about that happening than Liam Robinson (the Chair of Merseytravel) did at a similar OPSTA public forum held in Southport a few months back.

Burscough Junction Station

We pressed Keith on the need to run trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line on Sundays whether or not the line is eventually taken over by Merseytravel – they would do that as a matter of course. He promised to take that request away and speak to Rail North about it. Rail North is in effect the northern branch of the Department for Transport.

If I recall correctly Cllr. Iddon referred to himself as someone from a truck driving background and thereby hangs an ever-present problem in Councils – their engineers are 99 times out of a hundred from a roads/highways background so they know little of the ways of the railway industry. Bearing in mind that many councils are responsible for transport in all its forms this must put them at a disadvantage, indeed they must miss opportunities because of the lack of expertise in railways. By the way, I’m not criticising Cllr. Iddon here, his working background is just as worthy as anyone else’s, I just use what he said to help illustrate a point that has long concerned me and which I witnessed when serving as a councillor on Sefton Borough Council.

Rufford Station

So are things on an upward curve for the Ormskirk – Preston Line? We can only hope so because so many passengers were left stranded day after day during Northern’s troubles, which are not at an end even now. Terrible communication issues with passengers, very poor rail replacement buses and a feeling that that Northern look upon the Rail North/DfT as their real customer who has to be satisfied rather than poor travelling public whom they let down day after day. The only way is upwards and please get the line into the Merseyrail system ASAP, it really is a no-brainer…..

Waterloo – Maghull – Kirkby 133 bus to run less frequently

The 133 bus route (currently operated by Comfy Bus) links a number of small communities (Melling Mount, Sefton Village, Lunt Village & Homer Green) with larger places such as Kirkby, Maghull (and its new North Station), Thornton and Waterloo. It’s been running for many years (probably since the withdrawal of the former Ribble buses 381 and 382 many moons ago?). But it seems things are going to change and sadly not for the better.

Merseytravel have issued a new invitation to tender for this subsidised route to be operated (Monday to Saturday) from this coming April. The 133 does not run on a Sunday, I might add

However, instead of the present 10 buses from Waterloo to Kirkby and 11 buses from Kirkby to Waterloo each day the new specification is for only 6 buses to operate Waterloo to Kirkby and 6 buses Kirkby to Waterloo. One additional service the 0743 from Kirkby will terminate at Maghull Square at 0823 and will run school term times only, so will not serve Sefton & Lunt Villages, Homer Green or Thornton at all. The very early bus (the 06.53 from Kirkby) will also not run on a Saturday.*

There can be little doubt that this reduction in frequency of the 133 bus will be a blow to regular users of it. Here’s a link to present timetable:-

bustimes.org/services/133-waterloo-maghull-knowsley-industrial-park-2

And this is the proposed timetable from April this year:-

I’m guessing that the Parish Councils along the route will have had something to say about reduction in service.

My thanks to Kevin Duggan for the lead to this posting.

Please click on the new timetable to enlarge it for reading

* Hope I’ve interpreted all the changes correctly but please shout if I have not.

Maghull – Former Town Mayor Jane Day RIP

I am sorry to have to report that former Maghull Town Councillor and indeed Town Mayor Jane Day has died.

Back in September 2017 I posted about Jane leaving Maghull to live nearer to her daughter and the book we produced to mark her many years involvement in the local community. Here’s a link to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/09/03/jane-day-leaving-maghull-after-50-years/

An amusing incident Jane got me involved with was to do with her fire alarm at her house on Liverpool Road South (she later moved to Mayhall Court on Westway before her move down south in 2017) which had gone off and Jane could not make it stop. She called me and I went to her house and unscrewed it from the hall ceiling. I was expecting to find a battery to remove but it was one where the battery was built in and not removable. We ended up in Jane’s back yard with me bashing hell out of the damn thing until it finally stopped. We were both doubled up laughing at the situation and how stubborn the alarm was.

RIP Jane day, I will miss you and your at times wicked sense of humour.

Want to stop Brexit? You’re not alone – Andrew Adonis in Ormskirk Saturday 23rd Feb’

Andrew Adonis a senior Labour party figure who is opposed to Brexit and all the harm it will create, indeed the harm it is already creating across the UK, is speaking tomorrow 23rd Feb’ at Ormskirk Civic Hall at 2pm.

Here’s a link which gives more information:-

www.europeanmovement.co.uk/lord_adonis_public_meeting_in_ormskirk?fbclid=IwAR0CA-8-5qZSP_l1Osporoa6Q5l8UkOe6Bu1nVzJM2wEqvfo1Y6fDISiPCo

Yes he tends towards tribal Labour in my opinion which makes it all the more fascinating that he is openly taking his own party leadership to task because they are still backing/enabling the Tories job loss Brexit.

Sadly, I can’t get along to the meeting as I’m otherwise engaged but please consider going if you, like me, think that Brexit is an utter disaster for the UK.

Rimrose Valley – Sadly it’s under threat but here’s a lovely tribute to it

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

Some years back Sefton Council’s then Technical Services Traffic Services Unit produced, in conjunction with The Countryside Commission, a quite beautiful set of walking booklets* which are pieces of artwork in their own right.

I blogged about another of the walks (No.7 in the series – The Maghull Trail) not so long ago – here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/02/06/whats-the-connection-between-mellings-waddicar-lane-and-maghulls-woodend-avenue/

But back to the Rimrose Valley, which I cycle through regularly. The threat is of course a new road to the Port of Liverpool that Highways England says it is going to build down through the County Park despite almost total opposition across the community and political spectrum locally to the project. But this posting is not another of my rants against the ruining of this lovely countryside oasis but a celebration of this green lung in the densely populated southern part of Sefton Borough.

Here’s the cover of the walking booklet:-

And two pages which to me are a lovely tribute to Rimrose Valley Country Park:-

The Rimrose Valley Friends are a volunteer group who promote the Valley and who lead the campaigning against the new road, here’s a link to their work:-

www.rimrosevalleyfriends.org/

Click on the map and the scanned pages of the walking booklet to enlarge them for reading.

An idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

* Sadly the booklets are out of print now

Council housing, social housing, housing associations – What’s gone wrong and why we have a housing crisis on our hands

I was taken by this recent speech by Lord Tony Greaves in the House of Lords where he squarely nails why we have a housing crisis on our hands:-

Lord Tony Greaves – For all the faults of local authorities over the years and some of the major mistakes that were made, council housing is one of the great success stories of the last century. The more that that is said, the better. I remember when social housing was a new term introduced from America and we did not like it, because in America it meant housing for the down and outs and people at the bottom of the pile. Council housing at its best was housing run by and provided by the local community for the local community. It provided so many families with a decent quality of life.

The same was true of local housing associations when they started. They were set up as locally controlled and relatively small, providing for local needs. Nowadays, a lot of housing associations have simply turned into large non-profit-making housing companies. Why it is thought that affordable and social housing should be provided by companies like this, rather than by democratically elected local authorities, is a mystery to me.

Yet many local authorities, including my own I regret to say, were bribed and bullied—by the Labour Government in our case—into a stock transfer to a housing association. We were bribed because of the vast amount of money the Government gave us. Some of it was for housing improvement, renovation and repairs, which was fine, but a lot of it was just money handed out to the council to bribe us to do it. We were bullied into doing it because, if we did not, we would not even get the money to repair the housing. Initially, it was okay, and it was a local housing association with local representation, but it has now become part of a large north of England housing company.

There are two major scandals associated with [what has happened with social housing]. One is the fact that something like two out of five houses—probably more now—sold under right to buy are owned by private landlords. This is not a property-owning democracy where people own their houses under owner-occupation. It is simply a policy of the Tories handing over all this stuff to their mates and to private landlords. I have mates who are private landlords, and there are lots of good ones. But the large private landlord companies, particularly in the big cities, are responsible for a shocking deterioration in the housing stock occupied by the poorest people.

I do not have time to discuss the second scandal, the question of land. Until the question of land is sorted out—in the cost of a new house in London and the south-east, something like 70% or more of that is for land; it is payment for nothing other than the uplift to the people who own the land—it will remain an absolute disgrace. The land ought to belong to the people. It does not, but we need some policies that move in that direction.