Merseytravel to deliver 2 new stations for Merseyrail (plus 2 new Mersey Ferries)

The present end of the line for trains from Wigan, the Merseyrail service to Liverpool is accessed under the bridge. The new Headbolt Lane Station will see the Liverpool – Kirkby Line extended to it.

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

If delivered this is good news indeed, my only reservation is that Merseytravel has a history of big promises but being less than good at delivery as previous blog postings on this site have detailed.

My old friend Cllr. Andrew Makinson (member of Liverpool City Council) will be delighted to hear that St. James Station is seriously back on the cards as he tried to get the project going quite some years ago when the then transport authority were not listening to him.

On the cycling front there may also be good news because at present the cycling facilities/safe cycling routes across the City Region are generally very poor/non-existent indeed, with a few notable exceptions.

Kirkby – Another end of the line for Merseyrail (at present)

The Merseyrail half of Kirkby Station looking towards Liverpool.

I have posted previously about the bizarre severing of the Liverpool – Preston railway line at Ormskirk which leaves a great 15 minute service from Ormskirk to Liverpool and a far from impressive irregular service from Ormskirk to Preston.

My posting about the Liverpool – Preston Line is available via this link:-

But there’s another of these bizarre serverings on the Merseyrail network at Kirkby where the Liverpool – Wigan Line is in effect chopped in two. In some ways this is actually more bizarre than the severing at Ormskirk because there’s another Merseyside community which Merseyrail does not reach just up the line at Rainford, part of St Helens Borough. If a severing had to take place surely Rainford would have been the obvious place would it not? BTW I am not arguing for such split tracks, indeed they make no sense to me at all.

Kirkby (like Ormskirk) is a single line, single platform station where the two separate train services meet end on and like Ormskirk the service on to Wigan and beyond is far less frequent and the Merseyrail one into Liverpool.

Also like on the Ormskirk Line there is is always talk of the Merseyrail system being extended, in the case of the Kirkby Line onto Skelmersdale. To achieve this a brand new spur line needs to be built into the 1960’s ‘New Town’ of Skem as the planners of the day ripped up and built on the railway line that ran through the old town of Skem from Ormskirk to St Helens. It will also mean a new station as well so the bill will be huge if the project ever gets the go ahead.

Looking at this optimistically the proposals are reasonably sound as Merseyrail would then run directly into Skem with a separate diesel service from Skem to Wigan from the new station. If the project was in the south it would have have had money chucked at it at least a decade ago but with recent back-tracking by Government over rail electrification schemes across a huge swathe of Northern England, whilst Cross-Rail 2 in London starts to get the thumbs up from Ministers, optimism about rail investment in the North of any sort is in very short supply. So for the foreseeable future Merseyrail will continue to stop at Kirkby.

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

Rail travel north from Liverpool – A very brief history

Southport Train rounds the curve towards Sandhills Station

Click on the photo to enlarge it

Southport train to Liverpool

Rounding the curve towards Sandhills Station (in the distance) by coming off the Southport line of Merseyrail. The two 507/508 EMU’s are joining the Merseyrail lines that (behind the camera) lead to Ormskirk and Kirkby. Prior to around @1968 the Ormskirk line went all the way to Preston and beyond as Scottish bound trains used the route from Liverpool’s Exchange Station to Glasgow. The same could be said of the present Kirkby line as trains ran through to Wigan and Bolton etc. Now both these lines are artificially severed at Ormskirk and Kirkby with poor and infrequent trains beyond. The trailing 3 car unit’s yellow livery is caught by the sunlight whilst the lead unit is sporting the silver/grey livery of Merseyrail. Interestingly these aged 507/508 EMU’s are presently painted yellow on one side and silver/grey on the other. Kirkdale motive power depot is also behind the camera where these units are maintained.

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

Merseyrail – Modern Railways magazine updates us

My previous postings on Merseyrail/Merseytravel refer:-

I was not intending to post on this subject again just yet but my attention was drawn to the July edition of modern railways magazine and an article headed HALF-TIME FOR MERSEYRAIL.

The article is built around an interview with Maarten Spaargaren the Managing Director of Merseyrail. It is sound comment and information surrounding the present concession to operate the Merseyrail lines around Liverpool which happen to be half way through the contract life.

The interesting points though very much relate back to the ‘optimistic’ comments that have flowed from Merseytravel over the past 20 years or so, many of which could be put in the ‘wildly optimistic’ category in my opinion.

First we are told that the present fleet of trains, built between 1978 and 1980, could run for another 10 years. I am sure this is correct but why have so many predictions been made by Merseytravel about brand new trains? Frankly, I am in the value for public money category so if it is cost effective to run the old trains for a longer period (and they will continue to be reliable) let’s just get on with it. But please make your minds up, promising new trains and then not delivering is just poor PR in my book.

Approaching Ormskirk Station - the end of the line.

Approaching Ormskirk Station – the end of the line.

And what about the long, long, long promised or at least highly speculated on ideas from Merseytravel to extend the network which have never happened? Getting north of Ormskirk comes to mind as a starter – long talked about to get to the real end of the Liverpool commuter belt at Burscough. Getting east of Kirkby is another one. I could go on but you get my drift. And talking of the Liverpool – Kirkby line the article mentions the big plan of Lancashire County Council and West Lancs Borough Council to take the railway into Skelmersdale. The Merseyrail MD is quoted as saying ‘Skelmersdale is a possibility but really it’s a town built for car travel and a better solution may be to offer a fast bus to Kirkby to link with the trains.’ Hardly a ringing endorsement for this big project but it is not far from what I heard a prominent Lancashire politician say not so long ago.

The planned new station at Maghull North gets a mention but no more than that.

A cold day at the present Maghull Station. The new station, in addition to the present one, will be about a mile north of here.

A cold day at the present Maghull Station. The new station, which will be in addition to the present one, will be about a mile north of here.

What I draw from the article and indeed from the Merseyrail MD is that Merseytravel’s utterances, which I have long been sceptical of, have indeed been ‘wildly optimistic’.

I remain convinced that the Merseyrail network needs to expand so that it matches the real travel to work area of Liverpool. How that is done and over what period will be dictated by the availability of public money to invest in such a plan but for goodness sake let’s get the plan written and then use it, develop it and promote it until it is achieved.

Oh and while I am on the subject of railways can I make a plea for the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line to be included in the Draft Liverpool City Region Rail Strategy. And can anyone tell me why on earth it was not in the recently published draft one?

The photos above are amongst my Flickr shots at:-