Sefton Focus Review of 2018

It’s always interesting to look back at a year just ending – lessons can always be learned from history (even very recent history) but that’s a piece of traditional advice many of our present-day politicians really seem to struggle with.

So let’s look back at the past 12 months via 12 Sefton Focus postings – each month has a link back to my original posting. It’s my personal take on 2018:-

January – A celebration of everything Hornby:-

In the Hornby Room at Meadows Leisure Centre Maghull – Michael Portillo with Frank Hornby Trust Chairman Les French as seen on TV this year.

Well, I had to start this review with the TV programme which put Maghull firmly on the map. I refer of course to the Town being a part of one of Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys celebrating the life and works of Maghull’s most famous resident – Toy maker Frank Hornby:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/01/18/maghull-hornby-as-seen-on-tv/

February – Pavement Politics:-

We Libs are known for our ‘pavement politics’ so it’s no surprise that in February I was going on about pot-holes! Sadly, as we shall see later, a pot-holed/poorly maintained road which I mentioned back in Feb’ ended up being a contributory factor to a cyclist’s death later in the year.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/26/the-state-of-our-road-surfaces-on-your-bike/

March – Youth and CAB make way for Police:-

The move of Maghull’s Police Station from Westway into Maghull Town Hall, facilitated by Labour-run Maghull Town Council, made my blood boil because a successful CAB help point (still not replaced when we were told it would be) and a unique youth facility (a Youth Coffee Bar run by local young people) were both lost to make way for the boys and girls in blue.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/03/24/maghull-cheering-on-the-new-police-station-no-remembering-what-we-lost-to-rehouse-the-police/

April – Oh for decent services on the Southport-Wigan-Manchester line:-

Departure board at Southport Station.

Railways have always been of great interest to me and I’ve been a member of OPSTA for many years now. Their campaigning to bring about a decent train service from Southport to Wigan and Manchester has been long-running and as I type it still is. This was the state of things back in April BEFORE the complete melt-down of the May timetable changes. Note – I think it fair to say that Merseytravel have now upped their game a little regarding services on this line but the reliability of it (It’s run by Northern Trains) is still very poor indeed.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/04/18/southport-loss-of-trains-to-manchester-airport-and-piccadilly-seems-merseytravel-has-form-here/

May – Did Merseytram burn Merseytravel’s fingers?:-

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

In May I mused about the lack of significant public transportation developments across the Liverpool City Region and pondered on whether the failed Merseytram project burnt Merrsytravel’s fingers too hard.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/05/25/merseytravel-did-merseytram-knock-the-stuffing-out-of-innovative-progressive-transport-planning-in-the-city-region/

June – Canal Breach in Melling:-

The Leeds Liverpool Canal breached in the Waddicar part of Melling during June, stopping the many pleasure boats that use the canal during the summer season. The canal was closed for quite a few weeks whilst repairs were undertaken by the canal and River Trust.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/06/13/melling-canal-breach-this-mornings-photos/

July – How accessible is the new Maghull North Station?:-

I penned this posting a few weeks after the new station was opened. The level accessible route into the station has now been provided although there’s still no dropped kerb for cyclists off School Lane.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/07/23/maghull-its-new-north-station-an-accessible-interchange/

August – The sad death of a local Councillor and cyclist:-

The August posting links directly back to the one I highlighted in February i.e. the fatal accident involving Melling Parish Councillor Alion Doyle who was cycling on one of the lanes in Aughton which I raised concerns about back then. A stretch of this lane, maybe a 100 yards or so, is still in terrible condition this December and I have raised this with Lancashire County Council. Such a sad loss of life. RIP Allison Doyle.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

September – The battle against fracking:-

Being an environmental campaigner the battle against Fracking is important to me as it is to many others. This month’s chosen posting is about Lydiate Parish Council gaining information from the volunteer campaigners against fracking. And yes, Lydiate PC did subsequently agree to put £500 to one side to help the volunteer Moss Alliance with their legal costs.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/27/lydiate-parish-council-gets-insight-into-fracking/

October – Building on high-grade agricultural land, which feeds us, is the politics of the madhouse:-

The vast Maghull East urban extension (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Another environmental campaign that I feel passionately about. That governments and councils (of any political colour) can allow building on the highest grades of agricultural land, which grows the food we eat, is utterly mad to me – a subject I have blogged about many, many times…..

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/10/15/we-import-50-of-our-food-now-do-opposition-politicians-get-why-i-keep-banging-on-about-saving-high-grade-agricultural-land-from-development/

November – Ormskirk to Preston Line – The worst performing in the UK?:-

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

As the year dragged on for the poor long-suffering passengers of Northern Rail questions began to be asked about whether the line from Ormskirk to Preston could possibly be the worst performing in the UK. The question was taken up by BBC News with particular reference to a whole week without a single train running on the line. Performance can only improve in 2019, it just could not get any worse.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

December – The battle to try to save Rimrose Valley Country Park from Highways England’s plans for a new road:-

Idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

And to close 2018 a subject I have oft-blogged about, the campaign to try to stop Highway’s England building a new road to the Port of Liverpool through Rimrose Valley Country Park. There have been many angles which I have reported on but the bizarre tangle Sefton Council’s Tory Group have got themselves into takes a lot of beating.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/12/04/rimrose-valley-country-park-are-sefton-tories-backing-highways-england-plan-for-new-road-through-it/

Southport & West Lancs – Manchester Trains – Local MP’s cheesed off by Arriva Rail North and just about everyone else involved in the North West rail industry

A return to that knotty problem of the railway powers that be making all trains from Southport, Burscough, Parbold etc. run into Manchester Victoria Station from 2017. A bad idea if ever I heard one as it is clear that rail travellers on the line want half the trains to continue to go through to Manchester Piccadilly as they do now.

L:ib Dem Leader Tim Farron at Southport Station with Southport Councillor David Pullin.

Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron at Southport Station with Southport Councillor David Pullin.

The campaign to get Network Rail, Rail North and Arriva Rail North to reverse their decision recently came to a head with local MP’s leading the charge with OPSTA and Southport Rail Transport Forum etc.

Parbold Level Crossing

Parbold Level Crossing

To say the MP’s were unimpressed with what they heard is putting it too politely. Here’s what Rosie Cooper Labour MP for West Lancashire thinks:-

www.rosiecooper.net/rosie_cooper_mp_furious_at_arriva_s_dishonesty_over_rail_links_to_manchester

And here’s a report on events from Southport Rail Transport Forum:-

www.facebook.com/southportrailtransportforum/posts/638817542960877?notif_t=notify_me_page&notif_id=1467713462228408

Looks to me as though Southport, West Lancashire and Wigan rail travellers have been shafted by a rail industry that did not consult them before it made the decision and has not backed off since. Who are our railways being run for? The convenience of the rail industry or for the ticket buying passengers? It seems we know the answer!!

Southport – Manchester Train Services an update from OPSTA

Loss of Piccadilly/ Airport Services under the New Franchise –

Departure board at Southport Station.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Arriva Rail North took over the Northern franchise from 1st April 2016 with a plan to divert our Piccadilly and airport services to Manchester Victoria from December 2017.

Since the last newsletter, OPSTA has been running the Make Your Voice Heard campaign in collaboration with the Southport Rail Transport Forum (SRFT), North West Manchester Stations Alliance (NWMSA) and station and community groups around Wigan.

While we felt the evidence of numbers we provided had made an impression, it would need real life and community impact if we were to convince the incoming train operator and the transport authorities, namely Rail North, Merseytravel, Lancashire County Council and Transport for Greater Manchester that the plan is wrong.

We have managed this through website, (www.opsta.org) social media: twitter (@opsta15 #gotopicc) and facebook (southportrailtransportforum), and the traditional methods of press, posters and flyers.

We asked rail users to petition individually by sending an e mail or writing a letter and hundreds have done so. Now the rail company and transport authorities know they cannot simply ignore this.

At the commencement of the new franchise, in reply to passenger objections and a body of evidence, Northern (the operational management) stated they would look at timetables in detail and consult but made no commitment to modify the plan to retain the direct service to Piccadilly. The Chair of Rail North also committed to hold the operator to its promise to conduct a review of plans but he placed this in a context of benefits that will result from the Ordsall Chord/ Northern Hub, electrification and new franchise.

Now in the second month of its franchise, Northern has become almost mute, Northern (Arriva Rail North) seem to be heavily under pressure in getting the new franchise organised which may explain their lack of communication. Or is it possibly because many passengers comprehensively deconstructed their initial response, not least the suggestion that a change at Salford Crescent would be reasonable? Their position remains ‘it’s being looked at’ with no time frame on when we will hear more.

In total contrast with the rail company and Rail North, any and all local authorities and business groups that the campaign group speaks to, immediately recognise the seriousness of the issue and act on it.

Wigan MBC quickly flagged its concerns with the plans and noted its formal objection stating the case from their part of Greater Manchester. On 21st April Sefton MBC gave its full support to a motion to state clearly its objection to the loss of service, expressing concern at the serious economic impact if the plan went ahead.

On the same evening OPSTA presented to the Local Association of local councils which comprises all parish councils in traditional West Lancashire and they unanimously gave their full backing to the campaign; active support and interventions had already come from many of them.

We have been working with many of our MPs who have been galvanised by their growing personal case files and are taking action.

Friends of Hindley station conducted ‘our’ survey at their station in March; the communities east of Wigan were now getting concerned and involved.

Recently completed platform surveys and counts by the Friends of Westhoughton station established that half of their travellers use the line for stations on the Piccadilly/ Airport route. We have now identified that 650 daily commuters will be seriously and adversely affected by the loss of
service. In order to obtain the complete view, on June 8th and 9th we will conduct a morning commuter survey at Wigan Wallgate and then report figures for all stations. Furthermore, while huge numbers need the service for work and education, the surveys at Westhoughton were extended through the morning and their findings reinforced passenger feedback, this is not just an issue for commuters.

NEXT PHASE OF THE CAMPAIGN

In June we will be seeking passenger participation again in Making Our Voice Heard with a fresh emphasis.

This will be ahead of a proposed meeting with the MPs for Southport, West Lancs, Wigan and Makerfield; Rail North; Northern and our local transport authorities (anticipated 1st July).

Where do our transport authorities stand?

TfGM says the matter can be looked at but so far has made no commitment. Merseytravel has not offered much more although working with Sefton Councillor Gordon Friel who is Vice Chair at Merseytravel he should have
influence and has continued to voice his support. Lancashire County Council has stated it will support us and evidently is taking some action in this respect.

The bottom line – Northern, our transport authorities and Rail North must be made to understand it is wrong to withdraw our Piccadilly service and we are not going to let this go.

Should you wish to raise an objection now while we press for meaningful dialogue and resolution visit our website www.opsta.org to see how you can make your voice heard – it is very quick and easy. If you use Twitter please
comment using #gotopicc and Campaign for Better Transport’s #railwoes. Or if Facebook is your social medium, have a look at southportrailtransportforum.

Ormskirk – Preston Trains – An update from OPSTA

Ormskirk's Station with it's split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by 'mwmbwls' borrowed from Flickr.

Ormskirk’s Station with it’s split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by ‘mwmbwls’ borrowed from Flickr.

I blogged about a trip that Sheila and I had on this long neglected line recently and a link to that posting is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/29/preston-by-train-from-ormskirk/

Here is the OPSTA** update:-

It was a pleasant surprise to read that Arriva Rail North (Northern) intends to run 17 services daily on Ormskirk – Preston from December 2017. This is more than the 14 services specified in the Invitation to Tender. It is quite clear they acted on the evidence based case we presented but as yet there is no detail expected before the end of June. It has been indicated, however, the service will be achieved through sharing train unit allocations with other services thus enabling 2 trains to be running on the line simultaneously in order to achieve a regular, hourly timetable.

OPSTA logo

OPSTA logo

That would be progress but our surveys clearly show the importance of getting the times aligned to traveller need and in the peak this means a more frequent service. Following a constructive meeting with Richard Watts* at Lancashire County Council (LCC) OPSTA will put forward our research based view of optimal arrival times at Preston and Ormskirk through the day for consideration by the Northern timetablers.

This may not achieve anything but the aim is to try and influence in advance rather than react to the fait accompli.

* Richards Watts used to be involved in campaigning with OPSTA

** OPSTA is the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association a rail travel campaigning group which fights for the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Manchester railway lines to be improved/upgraded.

Southport – Wigan – Manchester Trains. Are services to Piccadilly and Manchester Airport being axed? It seems so unless OPSTA and SRTF campaigners can stop it happening.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Below is the text of a leaflet/poster that is presently being distributed to travellers on Southport – Manchester trains by OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) ans SRTF (Southport Rail Transport Forum) members.

10987391_514611765381456_4156173185824351302_n

It’s at this time of the year that you don’t want to be hanging around a platform waiting to change trains but that’s exactly what commuters travelling to Deansgate, Oxford Road or Manchester Piccadilly will face after December 2017 if we let rail planners have their own way.

OPSTA logo

OPSTA logo

The plans to axe direct services were revealed to SRTF and OPSTA by Merseytravel and Arriva Rail North in meetings held in the offices of local MPs John Pugh [Southport] and Rosie Cooper [West Lancashire] before Christmas and in January.

The decision to axe services flies in the face of evidence collected in surveys in late 2014 and again in 2015 to find out how the Manchester services [from Southport]were being used.

Key Findings from Passenger Survey Autumn 2015

Every weekday 1000 passengers take one of the morning commuter services towards Manchester from stations between Southport and Gathurst.

Over 70% will remain on the train until they reach one of the 5 city centre stations – Deansgate, Oxford Rd and Piccadilly on the ‘Piccadilly line’, Salford Central and Victoria on the ‘Victoria line’

There is an overall 60:40 split between those disembarking at Piccadilly versus Victoria line stations; it was exactly this split at Appley Bridge and an equal ratio at Gathurst (i.e. 1:1).

Are these proposals set in stone? We believe there is a short window of three or four months to mount a coordinated approach involving commuters, businesses and local authorities to get rail chiefs to rethink their plans and arrive at a solution which is customer based and not merely for the benefit of timetablers.

Our surveys have said how much you care about these services. Now you must play your part to save them. Please contact OPSTA by e-mail or SRTF via Facebook – addresses below – and we’ll send you information explaining how exactly you can make your voice heard. Time is of the essence. Success depends on presenting a coherent voice.

STOP PRESS: DIRECT SERVICES TO DEANSGATE,
OXFORD ROAD, PICCADILLY AND AIRPORT SET
TO BE AXED IN DECEMBER 2017 -IT’S OFFICIAL!

Southport Rail Transport Forum is working with
Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association (OPSTA)
for better trains and more efficient connections with Lancashire and Manchester.

southportrailtransportforum
@srtforum
www.opsta.org
opstasurveys@gmail.com
@opsta15