Motion – Sefton Council meeting 24th July – Liverpool City Region Draft Long Term Rail Strategy

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

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

I am moving the motion below at the meeting of Sefton Council tonight and am hoping it will get all-party support.

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That the Council welcomes publication of the Draft City Region Long Term Rail Strategy but is concerned that the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line, which supports commuter travel for Sefton residents living in the north of the Borough who work in Manchester and the tourist trade/economy in Formby/Southport/North Sefton, is omitted from the report.

The Council calls upon the City Region Cabinet Combined Authority to include this line and the development and promotion of it in the final draft.

All options to upgrade this line need to be fully considered within the strategy and should include:-

* Renewal of outdated/inappropriate rolling stock

* Increased passenger/train capacity

* A potential new park & ride station at Kew

* Electrification

* Adoption of Meols Cop Station by Merseytravel

* Connectivity with the Ormskirk – Preston line.

The benefits that could flow from including this line within the final City Region Long Term Rail Strategy will support the north of the Borough and help sustain Sefton’s tourist economy. It will also ensure that the north of the Liverpool City Region is well connected to West Lancashire, Preston and Manchester City Region by rail.

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The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Meols Cop Station – Southport – Wigan/Manchester Line

I said not long ago that I would post about this station, so here goes. By the way a previous posting of mine from 29th July 2013 is worth referring back to:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2013/07/29/meols-cop-station-vandalism-destroys-the-work-of-volunteers/

Meols Cop is the first station reached when a Southport – Wigan/Manchester train leaves Southport’s Chapel Street Station indeed it is well within Southport.

A visit there immediately draws attention to the challenges of this station. Firstly, it has no car park or seemingly any land close by that could become a car park. This is a major disadvantage as it is used by folk who live in Southport but who often work in Manchester. It’s second major problem is that whilst the station is firmly within Merseyside it is not a Merseytravel run station. There is no ticket office, it does not have station staff and the facilities are no more than a couple of shelters.

The fact that Merseytravel have not adopted it and brought it up to the usual standard of a station across Merseyside is a long standing bone of contention with Southport folk.

The good news is that the Station has an active volunteer group which I made mention of in my posting of July 2013 and what a great job they do.

It was time for me to go have a proper look at Meols Cop and here are some photo’s I took on my visit.

Taken from the Station platform looking towards Southport.

Taken from the Station platform looking towards Southport.

Sadly Meols Cops is not a disabled friendly Station. The steps down to the platform.

Sadly Meols Cops is not a disabled friendly Station. The steps down to the platform.

How many stations can you find with a lawn? It looks great.

How many stations can you find with a lawn? It looks great.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Planted out by volunteers

Planted out by volunteers

What Southport really needs is a station that provides extensive free car parking for commuters on this line. It is achievable by building a new station right by the Kew Park and Ride site on the edge of Southport. This is a challenge for the future but for now let’s thank the Meols Cop Volunteers for the work they do in helping to keep Merseytravel’s forgotten station going and looking good.

PS. David Sumner (mentioned in my previous posting) is no longer a Sefton Councillor having decided to retire at the last local elections following years of dedicated service to the Southport (Norwood Ward) community. Happy retirement David and keep up the good work at Meols Cop.

Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – time to redress 50 years of neglect!

The article below, about the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) is from the May edition of Rail User Express the newsletter of Railfuture

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Much of the committee’s time in the early part of 2014 was taken up with formulating a response to the draft West Lancashire Transport Masterplan. Useful meetings were held with both council officers and local MP’s, and the group is hopeful that many of its suggestions will be incorporated in the final Masterplan. The lack of any statement about the Southport-Wigan line was an omission; also the group wanted to see a firm commitment to carry out further studies into the merits of a south-west curve at Burscough.

OPSTA has been involved in meetings about the role of Rail North, and the development of the railway in their area – especially prospects for electrification. The group notes that Northern has been tasked to refocus on revenue collection during their franchise extension period, and OPSTA members are asked to report incidents where ticket checks are not conducted on trains. The group will be monitoring patronage of the additional service on the Ormskirk-Preston route from the May timetable change, and they’ve persuaded Northern to at least produce a cost estimate for a Sunday service on the line.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the direct Southport-Preston line, and an event in September to mark the occasion is being planned. Correspondents to OPSTAs newsletter make the point that routes to Southport have been neglected in the intervening period, not the least because the town was perversely placed in Merseyside, while the railways to the east run primarily through West Lancashire. Reinstatement of the Burscough curves would once again facilitate easier journeys between Southport and Preston.

The OPSTA stand at Preston Model Rail Club show generated a good level of interest – and 4 new members! The stand will be out again at events in June. The Friends of Meols Cop Station have started work on a new wild flower garden, despite suffering the attention of vandals earlier in the year. At Croston Station, the Friends group has been working tirelessly for three years to turn the overgrown wilderness on the disused platform into a neat and colourful garden; “before” and “after” photos on the back cover of OPSTA’s magazine amply illustrate the fantastic transformation.

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I will write about Southport’s Meols Cop Station in a future posting.

Tackle transport problems east of Southport or don’t tell me that the Merseyside Joint Authority has credibility

I can’t help but return to that Joint Authority matter for the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside as the more I think about it the balmier it looks from Sefton’s and indeed West Lancashire’s situation. Indeed, it makes me angry just to think about it.

West Lancs Borough are all but shut out of the club and Sefton instead of pressing for a wider and far more logically based sub-regional authority that covered the real travel to work geography around Liverpool simply said to its southern Merseyside neighbours yes we will join your club. No fight, no hard negotiations, no championing of the diverse needs of Sefton’s communities just a forest of Labour hands (with some surprising Tory support) toeing the line of the other Merseyside Authorities. Even St Helens has succumbed as Labour’s previous Leader there had been replaced. She, Marie Rimmer, had stood out against a takeover by Liverpool (as had the Council Leader prior to her – Lib Dem Brian Spencer) but she was removed seemingly for her independent stance.

When I spoke at the recent Sefton Council meeting, which sadly agreed to the Borough joining this odd little club, I said there was nothing in the deal for the northern half of Sefton and indeed it could well be to its detriment. The economy of Southport is clearly dependent on what goes on in West Lancashire because it, with the Irish Sea, all but surrounds the Town. Development of Southport’s tourist/seaside economy needs a boost and significantly improved transport links through West Lancashire are the key to that.

So the challenge for this new Joint Authority to me is crystal clear; sort out the major road link that is needed between the M58 and Southport (in effect an Ormskirk by-pass) and significantly enhance and reconnect the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk – Preston railway lines. If this new Merseyside Joint Authority will commit itself to solving these problems, even though they are in West Lancashire, in say a 10 year timeframe then maybe sceptics like me will have a change of heart. Until I see the Joint Authority say ‘we will solve these issues’ written in blood then don’t ask because a combination of Merseytravel, Lancashire County Council, West Lancs Borough Council and Sefton Council have singularly failed to get these two major projects off the ground since local government reorganisation in 1974!

If I have one huge regret from my time as Leader of Sefton Council it is that this east of Southport transport conundrum was not solved. I heard much sympathy, lots of warm words and many encouraging noises but at the end of the day nothing happened.

I think the people and businesses of Southport have every right to be angry at this situation and I say this despite the valiant efforts of the Town’s MP John Pugh and many of his Lib Dem councillor colleagues. Will the Joint (Liverpool centric) Authority finally sort this out; will they even care about it? Frankly, I severely doubt it and Southport will miss out once again. And please, if they do think about taking this challenge up – no more warm words PLEASE!

Meols Cop Station – Vandalism destroys the work of volunteers

I met by old chum Cllr. David Sumner last Wednesday at a Sefton Council Planning Committee meeting and because we are both interested in railways he told me the sad story of the recent vandalism on the station which is maintained and indeed has been considerably improved by the work of a volunteer group led by David, his wife Pat and Dr Jim Ford.

Cllr. David Sumner

Cllr. David Sumner

Meols Cop is an odd station because whilst it is in Merseyside it is not really much loved by our Integrated Transport Authority Merseytravel. The trains calling at the station are all those of Northern Rail on the Southport – Wigan line.

It seems that a few days ago someone or a group of people simply trashed the station plants and the planters they were in causing a huge amount of damage. I wonder how they would feel if we turned up at their house and trashed their garden.

Knowing David and his fellow volunteers they will try to pull things together again but why should their efforts, on behalf of us all, be ruined by thugs? Stations being adopted by volunteer groups are now the norm; just look at Maghull on the Liverpool Ormskirk Line. There volunteers have transformed the station and won many awards in recent years.

Good luck to the Friends of Meols Cop Station.

Have a look at this link for more information about the Friends of Meols Cop Station:-

http://www.southport.gb.com/southport/news_list/Friends_Of_Meols_Cop_Station-51448953.htm