Southport and its railways – a victim of the 1960’s Beeching era and Local Government reorganisation of the 1970’s.

The 1960’s loss of the Southport – Preston Line, should it still be there, would be laughed at these days but gone it has even though it was electrified to Crossens. It must rank as one of the most bizarre Beeching era losses.

Then in the 1970’s Southport suffered again, this time at the hands of local government reorganisation. Many hold the view that Southport was added into Merseyside as a party political fix and this is probably the case because the Borough of Sefton, which I led for 7 years, is geographically most odd. It is that odd geography that has caused a continuing and ongoing transport problem for Southport.

A train at Southport Station bound for Manchester

A train at Southport Station bound for Manchester

This photo is amongst my Flickr photo’s at
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Having lost its rail connection to the north the Town has been left with one high quality line to Liverpool and one poor quality one to Wigan and on to Manchester. The problem being that virtually all of the line east of Southport is in West Lancashire where Lancashire County Council is the transport authority. So to get the Southport – Wigan line upgraded it clearly needs West Lancs Borough and Lancashire County Councils to make it a priority – they have failed to do that ever since 1974 when the Merseyside – Lancashire boundary was erected. I say failed but, from their perspective, why should they look upon the Southport tourist economy as being a priority as Southport is not in Lancashire’s area of responsibility.

Then there’s the Burscough Curves; two very short sections of curved track that if reconnected could bring back a Southport – Preston railway service and a Southport – Ormskirk service to boot. Again, this is not a priority for Lancashire’s politicians and seemingly may never be such, but it is a huge priority for Southport.

So Southport at least from a rail perspective as lost out all ways round and finding a solution when that solution is in Lancashire has proved to be all but an insurmountable barrier for 40 years, despite the campaigning of Southport’s MP’s and its councillors.

When the railways first reached Southport Manchester businessman came to live in the Town because of its excellent rail links to Manchester – excellent is not what you would call the service these days!

My contention is that until the West Lancashire area becomes a unitary authority and joins the other Merseyside Authorities as an equal partner Southport’s rail challenges may not be given much more than tea and sympathy. And sadly this seems to have been the stance of Merseytravel (the Passenger Transport Authority, then Integrated Transport Authority and now little more than a Committee of the Merseyside Joint Authorities) since 1974.

Southport has been served up a raw deal in the modern day rail era but, we must not let the challenges daunt us, tough though they may be. The Southport economy will continue to be held back if the battle is not eventually won.

The original article was written for OPSTA’s magazine ‘Connexion’ of April 2014.

www.opsta.btck.co.uk/

Altcar and Hillhouse Station

Altcar and Hillhouse Station

This follows up a number of previous postings about the long-gone railway from Aintree Central to Southport Lord Street which closed well before Mr Beeching had a hack at Britain’s railways.

This station, on the old Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway, was between Lydiate and Mossbridge Stations. It opened in 1894, closed for a couple of years during the First World War (along with a number of other stations along this line) and survived until the line was closed in 1952. Rail access was still retained until 1960 to serve private sidings on the Station site.

The photo above was taken in June 1959 when a railway enthusiasts special was run.

I look upon Thatcher as I do Beeching

Not being a Conservative I have never been able to get my head around why they so idolised her. It’s like me being a railway enthusiast trying to understand why some folks thought Beeching was doing us a favour by closing many of our railways.

Frankly, I saw Margaret Thatcher as being a negative influence on our society. Yes, OK I am from Nottinghamshire mining stock so you could say I have an axe to grind but even putting that prejudice to one side I just saw her as a divisive figure who seemed to be promoting a view of the world which on one level you could say was playing to our most self-interested instincts.

It also has to be said that her government started what I see as the start of the decline in our financial institutions via the demutualisation of our building societies. This move, which seemed to symbolise greed over sensible management of savings, played very much to our more selfish instincts as we gained and then sold shares in mutual institutions that subsequently were either taken over by big banks or went bust because they were no longer managed well.

Sadly, instead of being able to celebrate our first female Prime Minister I really do wonder whether she helped to lay the foundations for our seemingly more selfish society.