Bus routes in Sefton – More cuts in subsidised services?

With a review of Sefton’s bus services on the near horizon (and you can I think sadly read into that more cuts in the subsidised routes) this photo is telling:-

No passengers

Click on the photo to enlarge it

I took it around 7.30pm on 13th July at the Meadows shops in Maghull – it’s the 310 bus out of Liverpool. I happened to be there quite by chance when the bus arrived but the telling thing is that whilst the bus stopped there was no one on it and there was no one waiting to get on it.

Oh yes, and the review is being undertaken by Merseytravel the transport committee of the Liverpool City Region.

It was the recent ‘Knowsley’ Review that has led to the re-routing of the 133 bus route through Maghull & Melling. My previous posting refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/06/04/melling-gets-another-bus-cut-as-133-is-re-routed/

As someone who has campaigned to retain local bus routes for many years – the loss of the 311 Arriva route being the most recent one – I really do fear that with empty buses like this we are going to end up with fewer buses as we move forward. It reminds me of the decline of our railways after the Second World War. With less people using the trains the number of trains were reduced. Then as there were few trains less people used them etc. etc. You get my drift…….

But trains are making a remarkable come back, will the same happen to buses in years to come?

MY REVIEW OF 2015 – Some Maghull & Lydiate events

Its always difficult to know where to start and what to leave out of a review of a year just past but here goes with 5 memorable issues for me in 2015.

Loss of the 311 Bus – Thanks Arriva! – This was a big issue for Lydiate in particular and it now means that Lydiate folk can only get to Ormskirk, if they don’t have a car, by getting the 231 bus to Maghull station and then a train to our local market town.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident's petition earlier this year at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident’s petition earlier this year at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

I worked alongside local residents during the summer who raised a petition to try to save the 311 but Arriva were not for turning to quote the Iron Lady and the bus was lost at the end of August. By the way the Bus Deregulation Act that brought in private company control of most bus routes was a Thatcher era move.

Boxing Day Floods – Well they are fresh in memory and the subject of recent postings on this blog site so just to say that I hope those affected by them are recovering from them.

Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook.

Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook.

Building on Green Belt & high grade agricultural land – Sadly, Sefton Council continued in 2015 to plough ahead with its proposals to concrete over vast swathes of land especially in the East Parishes part of the Borough. They are looking to allow massive urban extensions to be built around Maghull and Lydiate together with other significant Green Belt building sites being identified across the Borough.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough's high grade agricultural land from development.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

As 2015 closed a planning inspector was reviewing Sefton’s Local Plan which details the Labour-run Council’s environmental destruction. So frustrating that few local decision makers seem to value our exceptionally high grade agricultural land which grows the food that we eat. Where will our children grow their food?

Maghull’s Stafford Moreton Youth Centre & former Maghull Library sites – This must surely be a candidate for farce of the year as it tangled Labour up in knots all of their own making. To recap, Labour-run Sefton Council put the side by side sites out for sale by tender. When the bids came in the Council’s all-Labour Cabinet took the highest bid. Labour back bench councillors protested (well after the horse had bolted) saying they wanted a pause in the process to see what the community wanted to do with the site or words to that effect. Their Labour Cabinet bosses said no we are selling it, tough. But the day before the Cabinet confirmed its original decision Labour back benchers launched a community consultation via the Champion Newspaper! The consultation lasted less than 24 hours and was pointless anyway as their Labour bosses were determined to sell the site. Later we found that Netto are likely to build a supermarket on the site. What a carry on.

The former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and old Maghull Library in the heart of Maghull's shopping area.

The former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and old Maghull Library in the heart of Maghull’s shopping area.

But then as December crept up on us all too quickly I was told that a former local chap called Henry Stafford Moreton had either donated the land and or money to have the Stafford Moreton Youth Centre built in the 1960’s. This being the case (and I am trying to verify it) then surely our Labour councillors should not be selling the land off and stuffing the money in Sefton Council’s back pocket but they should be investing the proceeds of the sale of the Youth Centre part of the site in youth facilities in Maghull. 2016 will determine whether or not Henry Stafford Moreton’s donation of land or money (assuming that it did indeed happen) will be wisely reinvested in Maghull’s youth or otherwise. Watch this space.

The demise of Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar – In August it shut its doors and I am not aware of them reopening. How sad and how ironic that later in 2015 we encountered the sale of Stafford Moreton Youth Centre for a Netto to be built. Youth facilities have certainly taken a bashing in Maghull.

Nickie Smith was a former Chairperson of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

Nickie Smith was a former Chairperson of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

When Nickie Smith had to pack in helping to run the the Maghull Town Hall Coffee Bar earlier this year she did so because she realised that Maghull Council’s heart was no longer in project. In all my wildest dreams I did not see Labour’s disinterest in youth facilities coming when they took control of Maghull Town Council in 2011. Ironically, the facility had previously been visited by Burscough Parish Council and Knowsley Parish Council (both Labour -run) as they wanted to see what it was all about and because they also had an interest in youth facilities like the then Lib Dem-run Maghull Town Council.

Well that’s probably enough grumbling about 2015 and let’s hope that 2016 holds better hopes out for our environment, our young people and local transport amongst other things.

Lydiate – No Christmas present from Arriva

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Rumours have been circulating that Arriva may have been having a change of heart over the recent withdrawal of their 311 route from Liverpool to Ormskirk and Skelmersdale. Indeed, my informant indicated to me that they understood the rumours were coming from sources within Arriva.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident's petition earlier this year at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident’s petition earlier this year at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

Obviously I had to test the water but sadly the response I got was not at all positive.

*****

Dear Mr. Robertson

I am writing in regards to your recent communication in respect of the changes that have been made to the route 311 bus service.

Whist I appreciate that the changes that have been made, may not benefit all of our customers, I can assure you that this decision was made after much deliberation and with the view of improving the service.

Unfortunately at the present time there are no plans to re-instate the 311 route.

I would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused and I would like thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Kind Regards

Brooke Milton

Customer Service Assistant

Northern rail franchise – Doubts over Arriva winning it but good news for local rail services

I could hardly say that a cheered when I heard that Arriva had won the Northern rail franchise today as I immediately thought back to them running Merseyrail some years ago and my recollection is that they did not cover themselves in glory back then.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Of course they are also our major local bus operator and again I groan when I think about them. Loss of the 311 bus recently comes to mind! Also, a concern I picked up only last Monday, when for reasons unknown, they were seemingly not running the 310 or 300 out of Liverpool for the evening rush hour. I heard some angry words about this from a regular Arriva user.

So, sorry Department for Transport we are not jumping for joy but we do hope that Arriva’s second attempt at running a rail franchise in northern England will be better than their first go.

But the good news is that there are to be improvements in some local rail services as part of the new franchise such as:-

* An hourly service on Ormskirk to Preston line, which will mean a significant increase up to 17 trains a day. But the need for a Sunday service on this line is not in the initial announcements so it looks like it may well have been ignored. If so this will be bad news for Edge Hill University and its students.

* One train per hour Southport – Manchester Victoria – Leeds and/or Bradford. But what of the Southport services to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport? More information needed here.

The dates for the improved services are not yet known.

So at face value a mixed bad of good and not so good things with many questions yet to be answered.

Of course credit for campaigning on these issues goes to the Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA and John Pugh MP because they have raised the profile of rail transport issues from Southport and through West Lancs. Without their efforts no improvements would have been forthcoming at all in my view.

And another thing, by way of a gripe. In my latter days of being a Sefton Councillor I had to batter away at Merseytravel to get them to put the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line into the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy as it was not even mentioned in their original draft. Working with others we got them to include it in the final draft so it is somewhat ironic that Merseytravel now seems so pleased about the services out of Southport, on this very line, being down to be improved!

Arriva – First they take away our 311, now they seem to be charging students the earth

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/student-outrage-extortionate-costs-arriva-10186852

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

Here I am with the recent Lydiate & Maghull resident's petition at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

Here I am with the recent Lydiate & Maghull resident’s petition at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

Interestingly the Liverpool City Region wants to take back control over buses running on Merseyside according to their bid for getting powers devolved from Government. Whether this would actually help regarding the 311 (and other) lost bus routes or bring down the costs of student bus tickets is a different matter though.

I will go through the detail of the City Region submission to Government in a posting to follow soon.

Lydiate Parish Council – A report of its September meeting

September’s meeting went on for over 2 hours but that seems to be par for the course these days.

We had a presentation from Protect Aughton Landscape Together who are campaigning against high grade agricultural land in their Parish being potentially taken out of crop growing use only to be replaced by solar panels. Aughton is to the north of Lydiate so the issue is of interest and concern to Lydiate residents. Here’s a link to the campaign group’s facebook page:-

www.facebook.com/Protect-Aughtons-Landscape-Together-1612117782378796/timeline/

Lydiate Parish Council had already sent in an objection to West Lancs Borough Council to the proposals on the similar basis as the one we sent in about the wind turbine plan for Altcar Parish to the west of Lydiate. This was a unanimous view of the Parish Council i.e. Labour rulers and us Lib Dems in opposition. And it’s not because we Lib Dems oppose renewable sources of energy, quite the opposite in fact, but it’s because of that old chestnut in this area of the high grade agricultural land. Building anything on it either in Sefton or the surrounding parts of West Lancs that have the same quality of land is just not on when only 2% of England has such high quality food/crop growing land. I do wonder though about Labour as their troops on Sefton Council have consistently voted to build on Sefton’s high grade agricultural land yet Labour oppose it happening on West Lancs land surrounding Sefton. Very odd.

We had a discussion about doing a Neighbourhood Plan for Lydiate and this forms a separate posting to follow soon.

Tennis Courts and caged play areas – We approved some significant expenditure on the tennis courts at Sandy Lane Park and the other caged ball areas at Coronation Park. We are talking quite a few thousands of Pounds but patching up the fencing around these areas is no longer cost-effective. Best to bite the bullet and do a major job. The tennis courts will probably need resurfacing in the not too distant future too but that’s a worry for another day. Lydiate has had quality parks in recent years and I hope we all want to retain such standards.

The Leeds Liverpool Canal is celebrating its 200 year old birthday (Bicentenary) next year (2016) and we agreed that as the canal is a significant feature and leisure facility in our community that we should take part. Hopefully Mersey Motor Boat Club who operate out of Lydiate will be keen to promote celebrations as well.

A blast from the past a former Ribble Lydiate bound 321 bus in model form. Obviously not the 311 but sadly it's another lost route for Lydiate residents.

A blast from the past a former Ribble Lydiate bound 321 bus in model form. Obviously not the 311 but sadly it’s another lost route for Lydiate residents.

311 Bus – We also discussed the sad demise of the 311 bus route previously run by Arriva and before them Ribble Buses for many years. It ceased on 31st August, because Arriva said they could no longer make any money out of it. I asked that we write to Pat Breckell who ran the community campaign to try to save the bus. She deserves some recognition for her efforts and I am glad the Parish Council agreed.

These were the highlights for me anyway.