OPSTA – Another report from the pages of Rail User Express

Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – two cars better than one!

It’s ironic that OPSTA should be celebrating the allocation of much-criticised 2-car Pacer units to the Ormskirk-Preston Line, but they say this does restore much-needed seating capacity – the group has long argued that the single-car Class 153 units are inadequate and effectively suppress demand.

With new housing nearby, the numbers using Burscough Junction are growing and OPSTA is continuing to carry out passenger counts. Results from the Burscough Demand Study, commissioned by Merseytravel, are eagerly awaited, but in the meantime OPSTA has been invited to a meeting to go through the findings.

The group is confident that the campaign to retain booking office facilities at Burscough Bridge will prove to have been a success.

OPSTA is working with the Southport Rail Transport Forum to secure the best possible deal for the Southport-Manchester rail service in the new Northern franchise. The two groups are planning another platform survey at selected stations along the route in the autumn – an impressive 75% sample rate was achieved in last year’s survey.

Campaigners are pleased that new customer-information screens have been fitted at various stations on the route.

OPSTA’s committee has been invited to participate in a service-development exercise to be hosted by Transport for Greater Manchester.

Northern Rail is taking the issue of fare collection very seriously and has recruited additional revenue-protection staff. However, the company’s claim that ticketless travel is at 6% and falling is disputed by OPSTA and other groups who fear this is a gross under-estimation. The group has set up a dedicated email address for members to report instances of poor revenue protection.

Another issue for concern has been lineside litter, scrap metal and rampant vegetation – the group acknowledges that Network Rail has made some effort this year to tackle the situation.

Four OPSTA members attended Vivarail’s presentation of their refurbished “D” train at Long Marston and found the experience thought-provoking: “nothing indicates this cannot work and a solid engineering approach means Vivarail deserves to succeed, but a lot of work is still required to prove it can.” The question as to whether the units will be suited to rail services for Ormskirk, Preston and Southport remains to be answered.

Some provocative articles in the previous issue of OPSTA’s magazine “Connections” have stirred up correspondence from members – the Editor is very pleased to have received a number of “impassioned responses”!

Burscough – At the centre of rail improvements?

Cllr. John Dodd

Cllr. John Dodd

Cllr. John Dodd the Lib Dem member of the Merseytravel Committee (appointed by Sefton Council) which oversees our local rail network has been asking questions about how our local rail network in north Merseyside and West Lancashire can be improved and it seems that if there are are to be any significant improvements Burscough will be at the heart of things, at least as far as Merseytravel is concerned.

This is what John was told:-

The enhancement of the Ormskirk-Preston Line is identified as one of the packages of improvement contained within the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy.

This package identifies a number of possible improvements which could be undertaken on the line. These include for instance the full electrification to Preston, re-introduction of the Curves (both north and south) and possible improvements on the Southport-Manchester Line. The potential to deliver a new interchange station which would link both the Ormskirk-Preston line and the Southport-Manchester line is also included.

The Strategy, in some cases, includes a number of possible options to deliver a solution to a particular problem. In this case the Interchange* could be a possible alternative to the re-introduction of the Curves as both would provide links between the lines.

* In this case ‘Interchange’ could mean building a new station just to the east of the present Burscough Bridge Station (on the Southport – Manchester line) and to the north of Burscough Junction Station (on the Ormskirk – Preston line. Trouble is that the new station would be, in effect in the middle of nowhere as the site where the two lines cross each other is literally in the middle of fields with no present road access. Now this idea is not new and has been floated before, but how realistic it is, is a different matter.

Looking towards Wigan at Burscough with the Ormskirk - Preston line crossing the Southport - Wigan line via the bridge.  It's where this bridge is that an Interchange Station could be built. The Burscough Curves would reconnect these two lines.

Looking towards Wigan at Burscough with the Ormskirk – Preston line crossing the Southport – Wigan line via the bridge. It’s where this bridge is that an Interchange Station could be built although the camera makes the signal box and bridge look much loser than they are in reality. The Burscough Curves could reconnect these two railway lines of course.

I also hear that another option is to potentially take the Merseyrail electric trains into Burscough Bridge Station by reinstating the southern of the Burscough Curves.

Of course any of this depends on the Merseyrail network being extended north of Ormskirk and a study recently undertaken by a firm of consultants, employed by Merseytravel, may well tell us whether this is actually likely to happen or not. The study called, I think, the ‘Burscough Demand Study’ is yet to see the light of day in the public domain. When it will be released I do not know but we can only hope that it is not as deeply flawed as as previous studies into the reinstatement of Burscough Curves were.

Burscough the centre of the north Merseyside/West Lancashire rail network, now there’s a thought back to what it once was.

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place, probably from around 1960.

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place, probably from around 1960. This shot gives a better idea of the distance out into the fields that any interchange station would be.

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