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?

Park Pool Ormskirk – Still under threat of closure?

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I got this e-mail the other day:-

We are writing to you because you recently signed our petition to save Park Pool. This generated over 1000 signatures in 48 hours – a huge response that quickly prompted some backtracking by the [West Lancashire Borough] council Leader.

We are writing to you now to make you aware that the threat to Park Pool’s long term future is still very real, even if it is safe in the very short term.

In spite of the Council Leader’s categorical assurances that Park Pool was safe, the draft [West Lancashire Council] Leisure Strategy still mentions the word “closure” in relation to Park Pool on Page 21 Section c). Worse, when Councillor Adrian Owens moved an amendment at the full council meeting to specifically remove this closure reference, Labour councillors voted the amendment down as they were determined that the possibility of the pool’s closure remained in the draft strategy.

Labour may say they want to replace the pool. They don’t say with what or where. We believe from the original wording of the council report – the report that the petition helped change – that they mean Edge Hill [University].

Park Pool makes an operating surplus, serves 15 primary schools with swimming to meet their national curriculum requirement, 9000 swimming lessons a year and has provided employment for a growing number of local people as its use has actually increased in recent years. It is a highly popular and well located facility whose construction was part funded by the people of Ormskirk. The new facilities at Edge Hill are primarily for University use and are not available to the community or schools for much of the week.

Therefore, it is down to local people to see if we can get the closure reference removed. The council are now consulting on the draft strategy. We are asking you please to respond to the consultation on the draft leisure strategy.

A short email headed Consultation Response to Draft Leisure Strategy and emailed to leisure@westlancs.gov.uk stating that you want the reference to closure of Park Pool at Page 21 c) removed and replaced with a commitment to invest in and develop the facility would be enormously helpful. The pressure from the petition that prompted the partial change of direction needs to be maintained.

Please ensure that you ask for an acknowledgement that your email has been received by the [West Lancs Borough] council and we would be grateful if you could please keep us informed of any correspondence you make on this matter. You may want to copy your ward councillors into any consultation response you make.

The e-mail was from a group who call themselves ‘Our West Lancashire’ and my understanding is that their only councillor (mentioned above) left the West Lancs Borough Council Conservative Group not so long ago. What’s more him doing so gave Labour the leadership of the Council!

Northern rail franchise – Doubts over Arriva winning it but good news for local rail services

I could hardly say that a cheered when I heard that Arriva had won the Northern rail franchise today as I immediately thought back to them running Merseyrail some years ago and my recollection is that they did not cover themselves in glory back then.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Of course they are also our major local bus operator and again I groan when I think about them. Loss of the 311 bus recently comes to mind! Also, a concern I picked up only last Monday, when for reasons unknown, they were seemingly not running the 310 or 300 out of Liverpool for the evening rush hour. I heard some angry words about this from a regular Arriva user.

So, sorry Department for Transport we are not jumping for joy but we do hope that Arriva’s second attempt at running a rail franchise in northern England will be better than their first go.

But the good news is that there are to be improvements in some local rail services as part of the new franchise such as:-

* An hourly service on Ormskirk to Preston line, which will mean a significant increase up to 17 trains a day. But the need for a Sunday service on this line is not in the initial announcements so it looks like it may well have been ignored. If so this will be bad news for Edge Hill University and its students.

* One train per hour Southport – Manchester Victoria – Leeds and/or Bradford. But what of the Southport services to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport? More information needed here.

The dates for the improved services are not yet known.

So at face value a mixed bad of good and not so good things with many questions yet to be answered.

Of course credit for campaigning on these issues goes to the Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA and John Pugh MP because they have raised the profile of rail transport issues from Southport and through West Lancs. Without their efforts no improvements would have been forthcoming at all in my view.

And another thing, by way of a gripe. In my latter days of being a Sefton Councillor I had to batter away at Merseytravel to get them to put the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line into the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy as it was not even mentioned in their original draft. Working with others we got them to include it in the final draft so it is somewhat ironic that Merseytravel now seems so pleased about the services out of Southport, on this very line, being down to be improved!

Ruff Wood Ormskirk

This small but pleasant woodland area to the east of Ormskirk is behind Edge Hill University and close to a local landmark water tower that can be seen from miles away.

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An interesting web page from West Lancs Council:-
www.westlancs.gov.uk/leisure__tourism/parks_and_play_areas/countryside_parks/ruff_wood,_ormskirk.aspx

How about this, a Water Tower Appreciation Society:-
bwtas.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/ormskirks-water-towers.html

Here are two shots of the wood taken a couple of weeks ago. At its heart is an old stone quarry, the vertical walls of which can be clearly seen.

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