North Mersey Branch Railway – Will it ever re-open?

Over the past 20 years or so Merseytravel, see my previous posts, have oft spoken about reopening this branch which runs from Aintree Station on the Liverpool – Ormskirk Line to join the Liverpool – Southport Line just north of Bootle New Strand Station.

It was once a passenger and goods line which was 3rd rail electrified and there were stations at Ford and Linacre Road. Indeed, it served a wider purpose as at the Aintree end it originally went through to Fazakerley to join the Liverpool – Kirkby Line and there was an additional station called Aintree Racecourse. At the western end it served Gladstone Dock and connected with Seaforth Sands Station of the Liverpool Overhead Railway. This final connection enabled Overhead Railway trains to reach Aintree for the Grand National meeting.

The line originally opened in August 1866 with Ford & Linacre Road stations opening in 1906 and closing in April 1951

Below are a couple of recent photos of the line as it is now. Both were taken from the Hawthorne Road over-bridge looking west and east respectively.

rsz_north_mersey_branch_looking_west_from_hawthorne_rd_bootle

rsz_north_mersey_branch_looking_east_from_hawthorne_rd_bootle

The link below may be of interest to readers:-

www.disused-stations.org.uk/f/ford/

But the reason I raise this matter now is that if there is to be a significant new rail connection with the enlarged docks at Seaforth (see my posting of 25th April 2014) then this mothballed railway is potentially a part of the solution.

The photos above are amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Expansion of Port of Liverpool – But what about the access?

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-27119412

The BBC has this latest story about the expansion of the Port of Liverpool but the big and very much unanswered question out there is what is to be done about transporting all the extra goods back and forth between the Port and the road and rail network.

This has been a big concern for many years as the A5036 from Switch Island to the Port clearly struggles for capacity now. Of course, the road is also a commuter route into Bootle and Liverpool so at times this regionally important access road, which is the only ‘A’ road in Sefton still under the control of the Highways Agency, is very congested.

Oddly, however, the rail link into Seaforth Container Terminal seems to be running well below its capacity with few trains using it to take containers to and from the Port. I am told this is associated with access charges to the rail terminal and the fact that it is more cost effective for rail freight to use the Garston rail facility in the south of Liverpool. Whatever the reason the effect of an underused rail container terminal at Seaforth Dock is that more containers are trucked to the Port via the already noted congested road network.

So, what is to happen when bigger ships carrying potentially vastly larger numbers of containers start to use the expanding facilities at the Port. The obvious answer is that unless the rail access and facilities are upgraded and become well used the impact will be far more trucks on Bootle’s roads. In fact, there will be more trucks on Bootle’s roads even if the rail terminal is brought up to and used to its capacity!

And associated with all this is the pollution from ships, diesel trucks and yes even diesel rail locomotives. This aspect should not be under estimated as Bootle already has much lower life expectancy levels than other parts of the Borough of Sefton.

This is a huge conundrum which Sefton Council, Peel Ports, The Highways Agency and Network Rail/rail freight operators have to address because if it is not successfully resolved the consequences will be:-

* Greater Pollution with all the health implication that brings
* More traffic congestion affecting everyone in the south of the Borough
* Bootle becoming a sea of container lorries 24 hours a day, 7 days per week

I will return to this subject in due course.