Merseytram – What happens when a project falls apart – The name gets put up for sale

Merseytram.co.uk – Premium Domain For Sale

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Searching for some papers the other day I came across this promotional bookmark for the ill-fated Merseytram project which I must have acquired at some point when the project was said to be a runner.

I checked out the web site address and unsurprisingly the domain is for sale.

These were the proposed routes serving eastern and south Liverpool

These were the proposed routes serving eastern and south Liverpool

Maybe one day a well-connected Merseytravel person will acquire the domain name and write up the bizarre history of this hugely expensive Liverpool tram line system which never got built but which millions of Pounds were spent on.

Merseytravel/Merseyrail – 20 years of big local railway ambitions many of which have hit the buffers! – Posting 2

My first blog on this subject, posted on 29th January, was based on RAIL Magazine’s Merseyside feature in edition No.208 of September 1993.

We now move on to an edition of modern railways from August 2003 and their feature article headed ‘Bright future on Merseyside: 25 year franchise, new tram network’

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* June 2003 saw a £3.6b 25year contract awarded to Serco/Nedrail to run Merseyside’s 3rd rail electrified lines which serve 66 stations.

* Interestingly, cost cutting by a previous operator (MTL), who had run the electrified trains from rail privatisation until Arriva gained a short contract to run them, came in for some criticism in the article. Fines for poor services had hit £6m, we were told!

The fleet of class 507/508’s trains were then breaking down every 4,000 to 5,000 miles they travelled; well below the expected average of 15,000 miles per break down. They are clearly performing far better these days.

The article states that 25 overground and 5 underground stations were to be refurbished by 2006 – 5 per year. I have not checked this in detail so any comments would be welcome.

Another pledge was that all stations would be fully accessible by the end of the next Local Transport Plan in 2010. My reasonably informed guess is that this did not happen but I could be wrong.

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In the 10 years from 1993 (when the first magazine article that I reviewed was published) to 2003 it was claimed that £72m had been spent on the network with 5 new stations and 7 refurbishments. Old Roan, Kirkdale and Conway Park Stations were highlighted.

We then move on to planned expansion of the network and that old chestnut opening up the ‘Bootle Mineral Branch’ which runs from Bootle to Aintree was noted [it has not happened]. ‘The Bootle – Aintree link will only need about two miles of track to be upgraded and electrified and is covered in the LTP’ (Local Transport Plan). Sounds grand and as though it was a certainty but……………

Another plan in 2003 was to open up the Bootle to Edge Hill line to meet the demands of the proposed new football stadium [neither has happened].

And hey look more talk of an extension of the line beyond Kirkby. [still not happened]

And another one that did the rounds back in 1993 – ‘the possibility of electrifying the Bidston to Wrexham line (back then operated by First North Western) and adding it to the Merseyrail Electrics system is also being considered.’ Well another 11 years on there is no sign of this getting off the ground.

The ‘£16m’ Liverpool South Parkway got a mention – trouble is it actually cost £32m!

Separately in this edition of modern railways the infamous merseytram project is covered and back in 2003 it was still a live project. The article tells us that the then Secretary of State for Transport had approved £170m towards the £225m cost of Line 1 to Kirkby and the Liverpool City Centre lines. Of course Merseytram came to a rather sticky end when the then Labour Government gave up on the project (probably because of Merseyside’s dysfunctional local governance) and pulled its contribution.

So we have moved forward 10 years to 2003, some things have happened but many have not and pipe dreaming is still a significant factor it would seem. But what about Southport AGAIN? Still no mention of upgrading its eastern and northern rail access or reinstating the Burscough Curves. My recollection is that such matters got a great deal of tea and sympathy, when raised by Sefton Councillors, but in reality Merseytravel seemed hardly aware that it was the Transport Authority for this important seaside town at the north of its empire.

Merseytravel/Merseyrail – 20 years of big local railway ambitions many of which have hit the buffers! – Posting 1

This is the first of 3 articles I am posting about Merseyside’s rail network and the big ambitions of Merseytravel (The Transport Authority for Merseyside) as played out in the railway press over the past 20 years.

My starting point is an edition of RAIL Magazine dated September 1st 1993 which had a 4 page spread on Merseyside’s local railway network and interestingly a full page advert for Merseytravel. Did the advert buy the article I wonder?

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The advert

This advert is interesting as it was in a national railway magazine so was unlikely to bring many passengers to Liverpool’s local rail network

In terms of stand out issues the first is with regard to ‘dual voltage’ which means trains being able to operate from the electrified 3rd rail and from overhead power lines. It says ‘Merseytravel plans to convert 14 units [trains] to dual voltage to run a service extension from Hunts Cross to Warrington Central. This conversion work is planned within the next 5 years’ [i.e. by 1998]. Mm, well that never happened did it and neither did a new proposed service from Ellesmere Port to Liverpool Lime Street via Earlstown which gets a mention as a Merseytravel ‘opportunity’. However, my recent posting about the Halton Curve may indicate a potential resurrection of such a project?

Also on the down side is the Wrexham line extension where the magazine says ‘Electrification plans along the Shotton and Wrexham line are tied in with the recently discussed plans for Conway Park station [this new station has been built]. This could be the first of the system extensions to go ahead, possibly within the next two years’ [i.e. by 1995]. Well it clearly didn’t so the new stations at Woodchurch, one between Upton and Heswall and one to be called ‘Beechwood’ between Bidston and Upon have not happened. The report even talks of Woodchurch Station having ‘good park and ride possibilities with good access from the Wirral motorway.’

‘One outcome [of a study called MERITS] may be a re-emergence of the Liverpool tram in a modern form’. Oh dear, well it certainly did emerge only for the last Labour Government to knock it very firmly on the head! But the article also gives an inkling as to why the tram may not have been a runner when it says ‘One third of Merseysiders already live within walking distance of a station’. I wonder if the writer realised how true that would prove to be?

But what about the airport? The article says ‘One new proposal is for an airport branch’, oh how we all wish that had been achieved!

New stations were an issue back in 1993 as they are now. Eastham Rake [done], Conway Park [done], Brunswick [done], Maghull North [still waiting], Headbolt Lane (Kirkby) [still waiting], Town Meadow (on West Kirby line) [still waiting], Vauxhall (between Sandhills and Moorfields on Northern Line) [still waiting], Marshalls Cross [still waiting], Wavertree Technology Park [done], Huyton Quarry [still waiting] and Carr Mill (all on City Line) [still waiting].

And finally a telling comment ‘Merseyside has been left out of the EPS regional proposals in favour of the more populous Manchester’, together with what may well have been no more than a pipe dream – ‘Merseytravel sees the possibility of starting a sleeper from Liverpool’.

Initial thoughts – No mention of Southport what so ever and its long-standing eastern/northern rail access problems. No mention of extending the Ormskirk Line to Burscough and beyond to Preston. No mention of extending the Kirkby line to Skelmersdale and Wigan. A lot of projects that never got far if at all out of the sidings. Was this hugely ambitious shopping list realistic?

Read on in the next of my reviews that are to follow soon on this blog site.

Balls says Labour will make big spending cuts whilst locally Sefton Labour wants to spend, spend, spend

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25885606

The past week has probably served to highlight Labour’s fundamental and ultimate dilemma – the spenders/borrowers V the cutters of expenditure who want, so they say, to balance the UK books.

Labour has always been a high tax and big spend party and their governments have usually ended in economic failure i.e. borrowed too much, spent too much. But Ed Balls and his chum Ed Miliband, who increasing look like the spitting image caricatures of David Owen and David Steel, are now telling us all that they will stop their ingrained habit of spending and borrowing too much in favour of the UK balancing its books and even running a surplus! This could be a significant turning point for Labour unless it is just party political spin to try to win an election.

However, let’s give Mr Balls the benefit of the doubt for a moment despite the fact that the mess we are presently in was created on his party’s watch! The problem being though that on the ground Labour is still a fundamentally tax and spend party, we see it in the outpourings of Merseyside Labour MP’s and Council Leaders day after day. What Mr Balls now espouses is so far away from some of his MP’s and Council Leaders that they may as well be in different political parties!

Only this week at Sefton’s council meeting the comrades were championing more/higher spending and talking about going to the government for more money. It’s as though these unreconstructed municipal socialists still think that taking a begging bowl to Downing Street, under any government, will lead to it being filled up! And these are the very same people that have ranted and raved at all the terrible cuts in public expenditure that have had to be made since our economy collapsed. They still genuinely seem to think that so long as Labour gets elected to run the Country again that the money tap will be turned back on. But that is very far from what Mr Balls is saying, in fact it is a million miles away from it.

Merseyside is suffering from a failure of leadership from the great and good Labour Council leaders. A glance across to Greater Manchester to see how it is striding forwards under the quiet but highly effective leadership of Lord Peter Smith of Wigan is all the evidence you need. Investment in public transport in particular shows how effective Greater Manchester has been as they have extracted money from governments of all colours in recent times to build a massive tram network and upgrade their traditional heavy rail. Merseyside has failed to get a tram system off the ground and is looked upon by governments of all colours as being a political basket case which can’t put together coherent long-term plans.

So on virtually the same day that Ed Balls was preaching fiscal prudence his troops here in the Merseyside Borough of Sefton were still ranting about the cuts that have been made so far: goodness knows how they will cope with the cuts to come especially if they come from the hand of Mr Balls!

Merseytravel – Yet another revelation

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseytravel-chiefs-spent-13m-taxpayers-6303426

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

I think it’s probably fair to say that you run out of things to say about Merseytravel and it’s almost the case of shrugging the shoulders and muttering ‘Oh just another chapter in this utterly bizarre saga’.

What’s probably the biggest unanswered question though is – When are there to be consequences or are the powers that be expecting more to be revealed before they tell us who is to face such consequences?