Aughton – Beware the presently closed footpaths

Folk walking around Aughton enjoying the local footpath network need to be aware that a number of public footpaths in Aughton Civil Parish are presently closed due to major works that are being undertaken there by United Utilities contractors who are laying a new pipeline.

This is a long ongoing project affecting a huge area. Here’s an example of a notice from Lancashire County Council about part of the closed footpath network:-

The notice was at the beginning of a footpath in Brookfield Lane, Aughton which goes across the fields, over the the Liverpool – Ormskirk railway line (via Bowkers Green Pedestrian Level Crossing)and on to Mickering Lane.

Skelmersdale – Putting it back on the railway map?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/skelmersdale-rail-link-moves-step-13639557

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

I have covered this project previously and whilst I know that some Lancashire folk are highly sceptical of the £300m+ new railway line and Skem station ever being funded this is clearly another, if small, milestone along the right track.

Here’s a shot of the old and now long gone former Skelmersdale Station:-

The old Skelmersdale Station – now long gone in the name of 1950’s/60’s progress!

And here’s a couple of shots taken at Rainford Junction Station (there is no junction now):-

And finally a shot at Kirkby Station (the subject of a future posting of mine) where the present line from Wigan meets head on with Merseyrail’s electric service to/from Liverpool:-

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

NoteThe last trains to Skelmersdale ran on Sunday 4 November 1956 and the station closed to passengers on Monday 5 November 1956. Skelmersdale station remained open for goods services until 4 November 1963 when it was closed completely. Information from Disused Stations UK.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

The last photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Lydiate – well not really but just into Great Atcar but only by yards

There’s a public footpath/public right of way just where Lydiate’s Bells Lane joins Altcar Lane in Great Altcar Parish. The path crosses the fields of Great Altcar and ends up at Showicks Bridge, which is a footbridge over the River Alt. When you cross the bridge you are back in Sefton Borough (in Lunt Meadows Wetlands & Nature Reserve) as you were in Lydiate but the whole length of the path is actually in Lancashire County such is the odd shape of Sefton Borough.

The former Upper Gore Farm now a small housing development

The former Upper Gore Farm now a small housing development

And why do I raise this matter now? Well the footpath is not presently sign posted at the junction of Bells Lane/Altcar Lane and it could do with being so to aid walkers. It does not help that to those unfamiliar with the area, or who have not got an Ordnance Survey map with them, the path looks to go through a small housing development (which it does) that used to be Upper Gore Farm.

Showicks Bridge over the River Alt

Showicks Bridge over the River Alt

I have raised the matter with Sefton Council’s Footpaths Officer and have contacted the Public Rights of Way Team at Lancashire Council in the hope that a finger pointing sign for the path can be erected.

Skelmersdale rail connection – the picture starts to develop

The old Skelmersdale Station - now long gone in the name of progress!

The old Skelmersdale Station – now long gone in the name of progress!

www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/southport-west-lancs/new-skelmersdale-rail-station-step-11572987

The Southport Visiter newspaper has the story – see link above

I have commented on this developing project many times before but it really does seem to have legs and probably stands a reasonable chance of getting off the ground despite the huge cost. I hope it does come off.

In many ways though whilst it illustrates how large railway projects can be taken forward it is sadly the case that smaller projects to improve the rail network are actually much harder to pursue. The Burscough Curves come to mind!

Southport – Manchester Train Services an update from OPSTA

Loss of Piccadilly/ Airport Services under the New Franchise –

Departure board at Southport Station.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Arriva Rail North took over the Northern franchise from 1st April 2016 with a plan to divert our Piccadilly and airport services to Manchester Victoria from December 2017.

Since the last newsletter, OPSTA has been running the Make Your Voice Heard campaign in collaboration with the Southport Rail Transport Forum (SRFT), North West Manchester Stations Alliance (NWMSA) and station and community groups around Wigan.

While we felt the evidence of numbers we provided had made an impression, it would need real life and community impact if we were to convince the incoming train operator and the transport authorities, namely Rail North, Merseytravel, Lancashire County Council and Transport for Greater Manchester that the plan is wrong.

We have managed this through website, (www.opsta.org) social media: twitter (@opsta15 #gotopicc) and facebook (southportrailtransportforum), and the traditional methods of press, posters and flyers.

We asked rail users to petition individually by sending an e mail or writing a letter and hundreds have done so. Now the rail company and transport authorities know they cannot simply ignore this.

At the commencement of the new franchise, in reply to passenger objections and a body of evidence, Northern (the operational management) stated they would look at timetables in detail and consult but made no commitment to modify the plan to retain the direct service to Piccadilly. The Chair of Rail North also committed to hold the operator to its promise to conduct a review of plans but he placed this in a context of benefits that will result from the Ordsall Chord/ Northern Hub, electrification and new franchise.

Now in the second month of its franchise, Northern has become almost mute, Northern (Arriva Rail North) seem to be heavily under pressure in getting the new franchise organised which may explain their lack of communication. Or is it possibly because many passengers comprehensively deconstructed their initial response, not least the suggestion that a change at Salford Crescent would be reasonable? Their position remains ‘it’s being looked at’ with no time frame on when we will hear more.

In total contrast with the rail company and Rail North, any and all local authorities and business groups that the campaign group speaks to, immediately recognise the seriousness of the issue and act on it.

Wigan MBC quickly flagged its concerns with the plans and noted its formal objection stating the case from their part of Greater Manchester. On 21st April Sefton MBC gave its full support to a motion to state clearly its objection to the loss of service, expressing concern at the serious economic impact if the plan went ahead.

On the same evening OPSTA presented to the Local Association of local councils which comprises all parish councils in traditional West Lancashire and they unanimously gave their full backing to the campaign; active support and interventions had already come from many of them.

We have been working with many of our MPs who have been galvanised by their growing personal case files and are taking action.

Friends of Hindley station conducted ‘our’ survey at their station in March; the communities east of Wigan were now getting concerned and involved.

Recently completed platform surveys and counts by the Friends of Westhoughton station established that half of their travellers use the line for stations on the Piccadilly/ Airport route. We have now identified that 650 daily commuters will be seriously and adversely affected by the loss of
service. In order to obtain the complete view, on June 8th and 9th we will conduct a morning commuter survey at Wigan Wallgate and then report figures for all stations. Furthermore, while huge numbers need the service for work and education, the surveys at Westhoughton were extended through the morning and their findings reinforced passenger feedback, this is not just an issue for commuters.

NEXT PHASE OF THE CAMPAIGN

In June we will be seeking passenger participation again in Making Our Voice Heard with a fresh emphasis.

This will be ahead of a proposed meeting with the MPs for Southport, West Lancs, Wigan and Makerfield; Rail North; Northern and our local transport authorities (anticipated 1st July).

Where do our transport authorities stand?

TfGM says the matter can be looked at but so far has made no commitment. Merseytravel has not offered much more although working with Sefton Councillor Gordon Friel who is Vice Chair at Merseytravel he should have
influence and has continued to voice his support. Lancashire County Council has stated it will support us and evidently is taking some action in this respect.

The bottom line – Northern, our transport authorities and Rail North must be made to understand it is wrong to withdraw our Piccadilly service and we are not going to let this go.

Should you wish to raise an objection now while we press for meaningful dialogue and resolution visit our website www.opsta.org to see how you can make your voice heard – it is very quick and easy. If you use Twitter please
comment using #gotopicc and Campaign for Better Transport’s #railwoes. Or if Facebook is your social medium, have a look at southportrailtransportforum.

Ormskirk – Preston Trains – An update from OPSTA

Ormskirk's Station with it's split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by 'mwmbwls' borrowed from Flickr.

Ormskirk’s Station with it’s split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by ‘mwmbwls’ borrowed from Flickr.

I blogged about a trip that Sheila and I had on this long neglected line recently and a link to that posting is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/29/preston-by-train-from-ormskirk/

Here is the OPSTA** update:-

It was a pleasant surprise to read that Arriva Rail North (Northern) intends to run 17 services daily on Ormskirk – Preston from December 2017. This is more than the 14 services specified in the Invitation to Tender. It is quite clear they acted on the evidence based case we presented but as yet there is no detail expected before the end of June. It has been indicated, however, the service will be achieved through sharing train unit allocations with other services thus enabling 2 trains to be running on the line simultaneously in order to achieve a regular, hourly timetable.

OPSTA logo

OPSTA logo

That would be progress but our surveys clearly show the importance of getting the times aligned to traveller need and in the peak this means a more frequent service. Following a constructive meeting with Richard Watts* at Lancashire County Council (LCC) OPSTA will put forward our research based view of optimal arrival times at Preston and Ormskirk through the day for consideration by the Northern timetablers.

This may not achieve anything but the aim is to try and influence in advance rather than react to the fait accompli.

* Richards Watts used to be involved in campaigning with OPSTA

** OPSTA is the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association a rail travel campaigning group which fights for the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Manchester railway lines to be improved/upgraded.