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

When Ormskirk bound trains ran via North Mersey Branch

Back on 19th November 2020, via a Facebook posting, I asked this:-

I came across the black and white photo recently and it made me think because the destination board would have involved the train using the long closed North Mersey Branch from Bootle to Aintree via Linacre Road and Ford Stations. Those stations and that line ceased to be used for passenger trains in April 1951 except of course for Grand National trains. I’ve also attached a view of the start of the line [as it is today] just south of the present Aintree Station. Does anyone recall using it on a passenger train?

I also included a shot of the local British Rail network as it was back in the day when the North Mersey Branch was electrified:-

My good friend Jonathan Cadwallader responded to my FB posting by saying this – I have travelled on that line. Sometime in, I think, the late 1970s there was engineering work in the Kirkdale/Orrell Park area. In those days replacing a train service with buses was only done as a last resort. To maintain trains to Ormskirk, diesel multiple units ran from the reversing siding south of Sandhills, connecting with electric trains bound for Southport. They ran non-stop through Bootle and took the Aintree route from Marsh Lane Junction, re-joining the Ormskirk line immediately south of Aintree Station, as shown in your photo and then continuing to Ormskirk. I can’t recall whether this was just for one or two weekends or if these trains ran Monday to Friday as well.

And then a couple of days ago Jonathan came across a photo he’d taken when one of the dmu workings had taken place. His recollection is that the photo would probably date from the winter of 1983 or 1984. Here’s the shot he took as the dmu was leaving the usual route of Ormskirk – Liverpool trains at Aintree junction:-

My thanks to Jonathan for digging this photo out and allowing me to share it. Comparing it with the present scene in my own photo (above) of the junction as it is today shows very considerable change indeed.

Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

Bidston – Wrexham Line and its new rolling stock

We may still be in lockdown and being advised not to use public transport if at all possible but one day we’ll get past this health crisis and be able to ride trains and buses once more.

Being a railway enthusiast I try to keep an eye on what is happening across Merseyside and was interested to pick up on the latest developments for the Borderlands Line between Bidston and Wrexham which is now operated by Transport for Wales.

We knew that new Class 230 train units, with the ability to run on battery power, were being supplied for the route by Vivarail so news of the testing of these units seemingly being successful is obviously welcome. Here are a couple of links about the new units and their testing:-

vivarail.co.uk/first-trip-on-230006/

vivarail.co.uk/new-images-of-230006-on-the-mainline/

Quote from Vivarail website article ‘the UK’s first battery hybrid being built for Transport for Wales to operate the Borderlands (Wrexham-Bidston) line. The train is powered by 2 batteries on each driving car with 4 gensets on the middle car to charge the batteries and as a secondary source of traction.’

In the medium to long term I still hold the view that this line should become a part of the Merseyrail network.

My thanks to Jonathan Cadwallader for the lead to this posting.