Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus – Posting 3 – Rails and Road conundrum

This is my 3rd and last posting about this recently published Lancashire Transport Prospectus. My previous 2 postings are available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/22/lancashire-enterprise-partnership-the-lancashire-strategic-transport-prospectus-posting-2-we-are-not-connected-to-southport/

Well this prospectus is a real curates egg of muddle to me and shows how both good and bad transport planning have come together in one document. The issue/problem seems to be associated with naturally adjoining communities that need connectivity with each other being in differing local authority areas.

An example of some good joined up planning is the proposal to bring rails and a station back into Skelmersdale. Sadly necessary because in the 1960’s town planners built a New Town whilst tearing up the original railway tracks. Page 36 of the report addresses this:-

Skelmersdale rail link – The Partnership want it completed by 2024

Whilst Skelmersdale enjoys excellent strategic connectivity to the Strategic Road Network via the M58, access to both Liverpool and Manchester is limited; it is one of the largest towns in the country without a town centre railway station. The nearest railway station, Upholland, is not easily accessible without a car and only served by an hourly train service to Kirkby and Wigan, and bus services are slow and journeys indirect.

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

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

The West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan, adopted by Lancashire County Council in October 2014, is proposing the wholesale reconfiguration of Skelmersdale’s transport networks to meet both current and future needs, not just for local residents and businesses but for West Lancashire as a whole. At its heart is a new rail link and town centre railway station, fully integrated with the bus network and easily accessible on foot or by cycle, and with sufficient car parking provision to function as a ‘Parkway’ station.

So good planning here to reconnect Skem in West Lancs to Kirkby/Knowsley and Liverpool. And there’s yet more good transport planning – to continue the electrified Liverpool – Ormskirk line on to Preston. Can’t come too soon in my view after another ridiculous severing of the original Liverpool – Preston link in the 1960’s. Here’s what the report says:-

Ormskirk-burscough-Preston rail link (the Partnership wants it in place by 2029) and the prospectus says:-

A 1958 map of part of the West Lancs area. The crossing of the Southport - Wigan and Ormskirk - Preston rail lines can be seen north-east of Burscough.

A 1958 map of part of the West Lancs area. The crossing of the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk – Preston rail lines can be seen north-east of Burscough.

Merseyrail currently operates a fast and frequent service between Liverpool and Ormskirk using electric trains. However, onward travel to Preston requires a change of train to a diesel-operated service that is infrequent and run to an irregular timetable. Rolling stock quality is also poor. Electrification of the Ormskirk to Preston route with appropriate infrastructure enhancements would resolve the majority of issues, significantly improving connectivity between Preston, West Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region. In addition, there is the potential to provide better interchange between Liverpool-Ormskirk-Preston and
Manchester-Wigan-Southport services at Burscough. Both are aspirations in the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy published in August 2014.

So ticking all the right boxes again here. BUT, BUT, BUT…..

Firstly an aside not directly connected with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. Merseytravel (the public transport body for Merseyside) commissioned a study not so long ago called the Burscough Demand Study regarding the first stage of moving the electrified train service further north from Ormskirk to Burscough. Merseytravel Committee member Cllr. John Dodd has been trying to get hold of a copy of the study report for months now but so far with no response. Cllr. Dodd requested that it be copied to him on the following dates 21st October, 2nd November, 16th November, 30th November, 14th December, 4th January, 18th January, 1st February but he has not even had a reply from the Transport Authority he is a member of! Just keep that thought in mind.

Returning to the LEP Prospectus – Sadly, however, this LEP report follows on from the 2014 West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan in not addressing two huge transport issues in West Lancashire i.e. not proposing an east/west Ormskirk road by-pass and not proposing serious development of Southport – Wigan – Manchester railway line.

Both these issues could if they were properly pursued have really positive benefits for West Lancashire and Southport/North Sefton residents but with Southport being in Merseyside the joined up thinking that seems to be there with the Skem/Kirkby/Liverpool rail link is missing in spades here.

I don’t know about you but surely Ormskirk should have had an east/west road bypass years ago in my book. It should have been built for the sake of the folks who live in an almost permanent Ginger Bread Town* traffic jam (together with the associated air and noise pollution) and for the economic development and much needed better access to Southport. Why keep ducking this issue when what it needs is the determination akin to that which recently delivered the new Switch Island – Thornton Link Road (Broomscross Road) in Sefton?

Then there is the very small mention in the prospectus of the Manchester – Wigan – Southport railway line (in the quote from the document above) and even that is only about connectivity between the two rail lines which cross each other at Burscough. Yes, such better interchange facilities are obviously required but far more than that the line from Southport through Wigan to Manchester needs serious investment. Such investment would benefit Southport and West Lancashire but where is the ambition in Lancashire and within the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership? And don’t forget that the Burscough Curves need to be reinstated (you can see them still in place on the 1958 map above) so that rail travel is again possible between Southport and Preston and Ormskirk and Southport.

Readers of this blog site will recall that when a Sefton Borough Councillor I had to fight tooth and nail to get Merseytravel to include the development of the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line in their City Region Long Term Rail Strategy. That battle was finally won with the help of John Pugh MP, OPSTA and the Southport Rail Transport Forum but now we have both Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership seemingly heel dragging on the very same issue!

So at the conclusion of my 3 part commentary on the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Strategic Transport Prospectus I am both delighted at the progress in some transportation areas but utterly deflated about the lack of it in others.

Come on Lancashire, start talking seriously to Sefton and do some joint transport planning which the residents of both areas could benefit from immensely.

* Ormskirk is famous for its Gingerbread

Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus – Posting 2 – We are not connected to Southport!

My first posting on this prospectus of a few days ago is available via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/17/lancashire-enterprise-partnership-the-lancashire-strategic-transport-prospectus-january-2016-posting-1-the-superport-implications/

Moving on page 19 of this weighty document is a map of Lancashire and some of its surrounding areas and Sefton gets a mention. Well a mention is putting it a bit strongly – the word Sefton is on the map and it is right where you would expect to see the name Southport!

Having said that even within West Lancashire Ormskirk and Burscough are not named on this map, although Skelmersdale is. Oh and the title of the map ‘ Lancashire’s arc of prosperity’.

Sadly, this map probably confirms the theory that I have had for some years in that council boundaries seem to be seen as barriers to pretty much everything. How on earth can the communities of West Lancashire develop when those in the north and east of Sefton Borough (Southport, Formby, Maghull, Lydiate etc.) are in a different plan? It makes no sense at all.

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place in 1960's. How come the reinstatement of the curves and the Southport - Wigan Manchester line does not get a mention in the LEP Transport Prospectus?

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place in 1960’s. How come the reinstatement of the curves and the Southport – Wigan Manchester line does not get a mention in the LEP Transport Prospectus?

Strangely though on page 34 there is acknowledge of the need to connect (by rail) Skelmersdale to Liverpool so why not the need to connect Southport to Ormskirk and Preston?

More on this in posting 3 to come along soon.

Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus January 2016 – Posting 1 – The SuperPort implications

There’s some interesting, encouraging and indeed worrying information (or the lack of it) in this 47 page prospectus. I will cover the various aspects in 3 separate postings because they are all worth a mention in their own right.

The words Norther Powerhouse litter the document as they seem to every public sector paper from t’north these days. I assume this is to either keep or get George Osborne on side rather than the authors being enthusiastic about it?

The first thing that jumped out at me was a reference to Skelmersdale on page 12 not least because of the connection with the Liverpool SuperPort project. The relevant text says this:-

Skelmersdale in West Lancashire is closely linked to the Merseyside economy and is able to offer major sites for logistics and distribution companies keen to take advantage of the opportunities being generated by the opening of Liverpool SuperPort. This is supported by research commissioned by Peel Ports and the Liverpool City Region has highlighted the need to increase large market-attractive sites to take advantage of Atlantic Gateway opportunities.

rsz_1aintree__melling_sites

This is interesting not because it is new news but because it shows how far the tentacles of the SuperPort project spread. Readers will probably know that a huge piece of Green Belt/high grade agricultural land in Melling, next to the M57, is firmly on Peel Ports agenda for similar purposes and that Sefton Council has, for now, kicked the issue into the long grass.

rsz_photo0839

The problem will of course be how all the freight that lands in either or both of Melling and Skem actually gets to Seaforth Docks. Of course this will all have to happen in reverse too. The A5036 is the only road from the ends of the M57 and M58 motorways. Fools some years ago took up the rail connection and Highways England are now promoting a new road straight down the middle of Sefton’s Rimrose Valley Country Park as their preferred option to addresses the ‘need’ for a new freight route!

Never has so much Green Belt and green space been under more threat in Sefton, than via these proposals and of course Sefton Council’s own appalling Local Plan.