So what does OPSTA think should happen?

OPSTA Response to LCR Local Transport Plan Consultation

OPSTA logo

I’ve been a member of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn for more years than I care to mention because they consistently campaign for improved local rail services. Here’s their submission to the Liverpool City Region which has been running a consultation process about the future of local transport:-

‘This submission is on behalf of the Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association (OPSTA) a non political group that uses an evidence-based approach to campaign for improved public transport in the north of the City Region and south-west Lancashire. We have a longstanding relationship with the CTA.

It outlines the case for extending Merseyrail services north of Ormskirk to Preston and through re-instatement of the south junction at Burscough to Southport and similarly extension of public transport links from Kirkby Headbolt Lane to Skelmersdale and Wigan.

The planned implementation of an extended rail service to a new station at Headbolt Lane demonstrates what can be achieved in a short timescale and the potential of the new Class 777 trains when battery-equipped.

Extension of Ormskirk service to Burscough

OPSTA recommends this as a fast follower project to Headbolt lane as it could be delivered very simply and quickly at very low capital cost.

There is a strong and increasing passenger demand case with counts conducted by OPSTA showing continuous growth of journeys made between Burscough Junction and Ormskirk (present entry point to Merseyrail) despite the disruption of recent years. Moreover, it is known there is significant rail heading at Ormskirk, Maghull North and even Aintree by people travelling along the A59. The population of Burscough all within 15 minutes walking distance of the station will soon have increased by over 50% in the last few years.

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Northern trains meet.

Liverpool – Ormskirk – Preston service

OPSTA passenger surveys conducted between 2013 and 2019 have shown consistently that around 25% of those using the Northern Trains’ service use a connecting Merseyrail service towards Liverpool.

Many from Preston and Lancashire will travel into the City Region for work, education and leisure. Similarly, residents in the City Region travel into Lancashire for work and leisure reasons and notably to Preston for education (UCLAN) and connections with northbound services.

A Merseyrail service between the two cities would complement and add capacity/services to the route between Lime Street and Preston; an easier and quicker route for residents north of Liverpool would encourage use of the train while reducing the numbers of passengers passing through very busy city centre stations to travel elsewhere. It would also alleviate congestion all along the A59 arterial road into the city centre thus helping to meet zero carbon and air quality targets.

Liverpool – Ormskirk – Southport via Burscough South Curve

With a through line at Ormskirk, reinstatement of the south junction at Burscough would connect it to the Southport – Wigan line and enable a frequent and fast Merseyrail service between Southport and Ormskirk, Aughton, Maghull and Aintree and bringing Meols Cop into the Merseyrail network.

Previous journey requirement analysis and modelling conducted by the rail consultancy Steers incorporated in a formal proposition made in 2021 for the Burscough Curves demonstrated that there is a unique demand that is not met by the ‘fingers’ of the current Merseyrail Northern lines estimated to be 350-400k journeys annually. A rail options report by WSP Global consultancy in August 2020 also recommended reinstatement of the south curve.

Improved transport links from Kirkby Headbolt Lane to Skelmersdale and Wigan

Now it is clear that the Department for Transport will not fund and progress the development of a new rail line the latent demand for fast and efficient public transport links remains.

A dedicated and fast rail bus service connecting the town to the Merseyrail network would be a very low-cost and quickly implemented option that appears to be a good fit with the City Region’s plans for bus services and multi-modal transport, with cognizance this would be within Lancashire and need a partnership approach with the County Council.

The Dft decision also creates an opportunity to extend the Merseyrail service from Headbolt lane to Wigan instead for which there are similar benefit case arguments for operating through services to Preston. Along this rail corridor demand for rail travel to Liverpool will be strengthened by the house building taking place close to stations and it will facilitate access to Manchester for those residing inside the City Region.’

Passing Merseyrail trains at Aughton Park Station on Merseyrail’s Northern LIne to Ormskirk

The last Northern Pacer!

A Pacer at Preston Station

The 27th November saw Northern’s very last Pacer in service. It left Kirkby Station on Merseyside heading for Wigan following a small ceremony which had been kept quiet due to Covid restrictions. Here’s a video of the final departure from You Tube by Kieran’s Transport Diaries:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AbmiSDLz14

I’ve blogged about these unloved diesel units many times particularly with regard to the campaigns to get rid of them. Here’s a post of mine from February 2018:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/07/pacers-are-thankfully-on-their-last-legs-or-is-that-wheels/

I for one will not be sorry to see the back of them. Buses on railway wheels, sometimes called ‘Nodding Donkeys’, they were shockingly uncomfortable to ride on.

A Preston bound ‘Nodding Donkey’ at Ormskirk Station.

Kirkby – Wigan – Manchester Trains

End of the line from Wigan, the Merseyrail service to Liverpool is accessed under the bridge.

A curiosity and I imagine a real frustration for users of this line from the May 19th timetable changes by Northern is this:-

A double-headed (2 loco) train departs Knowsley Freight Terminal on its way to Wilton Power Station.

So it seems, according to Northern that is, that the troubled timekeeping on the Kirkby – Wigan – Manchester line is due to the freight trains to and from Knowsley Freight Terminal causing delays. The freight trains, usually 4 movements per day (2 in – 2 out), take Merseyside’s non-recyclable waste to Wilton Power Station in the north east for burning to create electricity. I’ve posted about these freight trains previously – here’s a link to that previous posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/08/what-happens-to-merseysides-rubbish-that-cant-be-recycled/

The question is, of course, what is going to happen between now and the December 2019 timetable changes to fix the delays allegedly being caused by the freight trains on this line? Also, when I’ve checked, the freight trains seem to be running pretty much to their timetable. What’s more they’ve been running for some years now and will continue well into the future.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye me thinks and it means 7 months of passengers having to change trains at Wigan Wallgate Station outside of peak times.