Rolling back Beeching half a mile at a time

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Some time ago government made a high profile bid for the railway enthusiast/environmental vote by saying they were putting up money to reinstate the railway cut-backs of the 1960’s Beeching era. It was all good stuff but when you have an idea how much a railway costs to reinstate then the amount of money on offer was to say the least rather insignificant whereas the expectations raised have been very significant. The amount on offer was (and I think still is) £500m and some experts think that’s only enough to reinstate around 25 miles of track in total!

Here’s a link to the original press coverage via the Independent’s website:-

www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/fleetwood-rail-cuts-beeching-grant-shapps-borders-railway-west-coast-a9304686.html

And here’s the list of projects bidding for the money!:-

assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/969125/restoring-your-railway-all-bids.csv/preview

Clearly Pandora’s Box has been opened and unless vastly more money is put into this pot there’s going to be some angry and potentially feeling misled people about. Even if you say two thirds of the projects won’t make the cut the rest will cost many billions of £’s.

Locally, there are two projects on the long list of bidders – reconnecting the Burscough Curves (which used to connect the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk Preston lines at Burscough) and the reopening of Midge Hall Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line. As a member of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) I’m reasonably informed about both bids as they’ve been campaigned for over many, many years. The Burscough Curves project did not make the 1st round approval process to be progressed via this particular funding route. In effect a revised bid is required. The Midge Hall Station project may see the light of day via planning gain money associated with a large housing development close to it, although that’s been talked about for ages too.

So with expectations being so high and very significant efforts being made with regard to each bid how will the potentially many let-downs be handled?

My thanks to Jonathan Cadwallader for the lead to this posting

Maghull/Lydiate/Melling – Simple cycling fixes for Sefton Council to undertake

It’s a given that the UK’s cycling network is well behind many European countries and that we seem to struggle to catch up. Major investment is required and whilst some progress is being made the pace is painfully slow.

But sometimes you know there are fixes that are easily done but which get overlooked. Here’s the obvious ones for me around Maghull, Lydiate & Melling:-

* Junction of Moorhey Road & Northway, Maghull – a dropped kerb for access to the cycle path along Northway towards Switch Island.

Just a dropped kerb and a bit of tarmac required at junction of Moorhey Rd and the Northway Service Road.

* Robins Island, Lydiate – add a small length of cycle path from Liverpool Road around the corner to the long established cycle path northwards along the A59.

Around the corner just out of shot is the present start of the cycle track. Start it in Liverpool Road where there’s presently just a narrow pavement.

* School Lane, Maghull – a dropped kerb is needed to access the new cycle path to Park Lane along side the new Maghull North Station.

A simple dropped kerb is all that is needed here on School Lane.

* Park Lane, Maghull – exiting the new cycle path from the station direction and turning right into Park Lane can be dangerous as cyclists vision is obscured by the railway over-bridge and the curvature of Park Lane. Whilst the speed limit is only 20mph on Park Lane in reality speeds can be well over 40mph. Sleeping policemen required on the approach to the bridge me thinks.

View at Park Ln end of cycle track. Cyclists can’t see speeding vehicles & they can’t see cyclists.

* Junction of Prescot Road and School Lane Melling – the new cycle path/track down to this junction from the Ashworth M58 Motorway junction finishes abruptly just before the junction as the new and still being constructed cycle path to Kirkby switches to the other side of Prescot Road. But what about the cyclists turning the corner into Prescot Road to head north? The present layout actually means that cyclists should join the road just before the junction! All that’s required is a few yards of cycle track around the junction corner.

Cycle path ends and the implication is to go on the road. A few yards of additional cycle track around in to Prescot Road would solve the problem.

What’s more I’m sure that there are many more simple cycling fixes across Sefton Borough, Merseyside and indeed the whole UK that would help tip the balance of cycling safely in favour of those of us on 2 wheels. It’s not always that grand schemes need to be the goal. And that reminds me that a similar problem applies to our railway infrastructure – simple fixes like reconnecting the Burscough Curves have been overlooked for 40 years or more.

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Class 769 driver training on Southport – Wigan line

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line – in 2014.

I’m indebted to Flickr user British Rail 1980s and1990’s for permission to use the photo contained in the link below to this blog posting:-

www.flickr.com/photos/britishrail1980sand1990s/49529872211

As this blog site and many, many other sources have commented on for far too long now the standard of service, the short forming of trains, cancellations etc. etc. on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line has sadly become a part of every passengers life. But there has to be hope and the testing of bi-mode Class 769’s on the line may well be a part of that hope.

I know that OPSTA will be interested in this development as they have been championing this long neglected line, together with the Ormskirk – Preston line of course, for many years indeed.

And a nostalgic reminder of the line in happier times when the Burscough Curves were still in use – photo credit Phil Hughes:-

OPSTA keeps on pressing for the curves to be reopened and is it just possible that the powers that be could be starting to take notice? I hope so but sadly there’s been far too many false dawns over the past 30 years or more to get too optimistic. However, one day Southport and Preston will again be connected by rail I sure, I just hope I see it happen.

My thanks to Kevin Duggan for the lead to this posting

HS2 – It was always going to get the green light

Class 66 Diesel Locos at Seaforth Container Terminal

I’ve been amused by all the chatter about the potential for government to stop HS2 in its tracks when the reality was they were never going to do that.

Yes I know, they held a review of it and made a lot of noise about cost but that was to keep the issue off the political agenda surrounding the General Election. The Tories wanted to be seen to have a foot in the camp of those who oppose HS2. You could say it was cynical political manipulation as that’s what I call it.

HS2 and the associated new line from Liverpool across the north are vital if we want decent passenger and freight carrying railways with capacity because there’s precious little capacity left in the present rail network.

Take Liverpool and it’s expanding port. One of the big issues is that there’s no capacity to get freight to and from that port and it’s because of pretty much the same reason that passenger services east of Liverpool are in a mess. There’s no capacity for the number of trains needed to be run, simple as that.

So do I celebrate High Speed Rail and the associated east west line across the north? Yes I do because it’s a common sense decision that had to be made. My only reservation in this daft process was that government may still be in Brexit mode i.e. doing things without taking account of facts, but maybe they’ve got enough of promoting fantasy land on their plate for now so they gave in to the experts who they studiously ignored over Brexit.

Now we need investment in other lines in the north such as:-

* Ormskirk – Preston:- just hand it over to Merseyrail so they can run trains right through to Preston
* Southport – Wigan- Manchester:- Get it back to being a decent reliable service as it was until the 1960’s
* Burscough Curves:- Reinstate them so there can be trains between Southport and Preston and Ormskirk and Southport

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

How Preston’s transport plan could benefit Southport & the Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Line

The graphic above*, which you will need to click on to enlarge for reading, is an extract from the recently published Preston City Transport Plan. It’s an important document because it discusses much needed transport, in this case rail, improvements to the south and west of Preston.

If you look closely the document is promoting the re-connection of the Burscough North Curve so that trains can once again travel between Preston and Southport. This is what the curves looked like when they were in place in the 1960’s:-

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

OPSTA, the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travelers Association has been promoting the re-connection of the Burscough Curves since the 1980’s and they have been the driving force behind improving the Ormskirk – Preston Line and the reopening of Midge Hall Station. But it’s been an uphill struggle with Lancashire County Council (the Transport Authority) seeming being at best lukewarm about the line the present train operator (Northern) struggling to deliver the present basic service reliably.

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Northern trains meet.

Another way forward is for Merseyrail to run trains all the way from Liverpool Central to Preston via the removal of the buffer stops at Ormskirk and other signaling/track improvements. To me this has always been the most sensible solution to bring the Ormskirk – Preston Line up to its true potential, together of course with the introduction of Southport – Preston trains. The fact that some of Merseyrail’s soon to arrive Class 777 Stadler rolling stock will now have battery operation facility (this had been in doubt previously) then them operating on the line without the need for expensive electrification equipment opens up real opportunities.

A mock-up of a Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Graphic Notes:-
* ‘P’ is Preston – Numbers 2, 3 & 6 are points along the Ormskirk – Preston Railway Line – 2 is the proposed new Coote Lane Station – 3 being the proposed reopening of Midge Hall Station and 6 is where the connecting Burscough Curves are situated i.e. where the Ormsirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines cross each other.

Ormskirk and its traffic jams

I’ve blogged before about why Ormskirk needs and east-west by-pass for its own sake and indeed to enable better access to Southport. My November 2013 posting on this matter is an example – here it is via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2013/11/21/ormskirk-traffic-congestion-solved-by-the-new-switch-island-thornton-link-road/

Having been stuck in one of Ormskirk’s traffic jams a few days ago my thoughts turned to the East Lancashire town of Colne where a motorway just pours out into it and the ever gridlocked Harrogate over the Pennines in Yorkshire. Together with Ormskirk, they all seem to suffer from the same problem – traffic being funnelled right through a busy town as opposed to each having a bypass of some sort.

My mind then, being in a mischievous mood, stated to think about a new town entry sign for Ormskirk and its twin northern towns. How does this look?

Well yes, just a bit of fun on one level but also a nudge to Lancashire County Council on another. Oh, and by the way, it would also help a lot if trains were run from Ormskirk to Southport via reconnecting the Burscough south curve.