Does the West of Lancashire Community Rail partnership serve a useful purpose?

I’ve been reading in RAIL magazine (issue 855 – June 20th – July 3rd) all about how CRP (Community Rail Partnerships) can deliver social benefits and many other things. And then I thought about the two lines covered by the West of Lancashire CRP and wondered what on earth does it do?

I found a link to it’s web site and you can see it here

www.communityraillancashire.co.uk/lines/west-of-lancashire/

It’s profile is low and frankly these two lines have many issues with cancelled trains, overcrowded trains (Southport Wigan Line), lack of Sunday services (Ormskirk – Preston Line) etc. etc. So how effective is the CRP at addressing these issues? Based on the fact that pretty much all the social media input and campaigning on the issues/problems raised above seems to emanate from SRTF (Southport Rail Transport Forum) and OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) I really do wonder what the CRP actually does and how it engages with the communities it serves?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Anyway, only the Ormskirk Preston Line is actually designated as a CRP line as defined by Government so the Southport – Wigan Line through West Lancs Borough can only be some form of informal CRP I guess.

I hear that Lancashire County Council are at best lukewarm over the potential to reopen the old station at Midge Hall on the Ormskirk – Preston Line despite the district council for the area being keen to press on with the reopening associated with major house building going on not so far away from the old station. Is this not the kind of project the CRP should be up and running with to develop the line?

And just what has the CRP done to address the lack of Sunday trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line? This has been a local transport issue needing to be resolved for a long time now, particularly with the huge number of students in and around Ormskirk at Edge Hill University.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Then we look at the loss of virtually all the trains on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line into Manchester Piccadilly Station, the vast majority of which now terminate at Manchester Victoria to the inconvenience of many Southport and West Lancs rail users. Just how has the CRP tried to influence this pressing issue?

Also, the Southport line was until recent times on the list to be electrified all be that some vague number of years down the line – no pun intended. The line has old trains which are run in an overcrowded way and with unreliability being the unfortunate watchword. And this well predates the May 2018 timetable meltdown by many years.

What I’m getting at here is that from my perspective the CRP is hardly high profile on any of these issues and the voluntary sector in the form of SRTF and OPSTA have seemingly had to take the lead in battling with our failed railway industry.

So I can I ask again what purpose does the West of Lancashire CRP serve?

Community Rail Partnerships – Lancs leads the way?

A recent read of railwatch magazine (July ’15 edition) really made me wonder how ‘Lancs leads the way’ could have been seen to be the right headline for an article Chris Austin.

Chris may well be right about what is going on in the east of Lancashire but over in the west of the County ‘leads the way’ is hardly what we in OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn.) would say about Community Rail Partnerships. Frankly the CRP for the Ormskirk – Preston Line seems to go around in circles getting nowhere.

A train from Preston pulling into Ormskirk Station.

A train from Preston pulling into Ormskirk Station.

Actions plans (such as they are) come and go, Lancashire County Council seem at best to be treading water over the line and oddly, from my perspective, the CRP is chaired by Merseytravel despite none of the line being in Merseyside.

Instead of Lancs County Council driving a positive agenda forward to develop the line they seem to be giving it little more than a tea and sympathy approach.

We backed CRP for the Ormskirk – Preston line within OPSTA as we felt it would revitalise the line by:-

* Making the trains more frequent
* Introducing Sunday Trains
* Planning for the eventual extension of the Merseyrail service to Burscough and then to its logical destination Preston.
* Progressing the reconnection of the Burscough Curves so that the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk – Preston lines are one again connected.

Sadly such an agenda in not being developed so in West Lancashire CRP is not leading the way and the headline in railwatch would have better reading ‘East Lancs leads the way’.