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.

Aintree’s Cheshire Lines Station

www.disused-stations.org.uk/a/aintree_central/index.shtml

The above site has a fascinating review and quite a number of photos of the old Cheshire Lines Aintree Central Station which was side by side with the present day former Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Aintree Station.

Aintree was the start of the Cheshire Lines Extension Railway through to Southport.

Maghull Station it’s a winner! RAIL magazine has the story

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I posted recently about Maghull Station winning the national Small Station of the Year Award and the latest edition of RAIL magazine carries a story about all the award winning stations across the Country.

I have long admired the work of the Maghull Station Volunteers because they are at the heart of transforming Maghull Station from a drab ordinary station to what has become one of national acclaim. It may be well done Merseyrail but it’s very well done Maghull Station Volunteers.

Also, have a look at this video. It’s of a Network rail Multipurpose vehicle probably on leaf or ice clearing duties running through Maghull Station:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2X9MqP8mhk

Maghull North Railway Station – The proposed new station gets in Merseytravel’s top twelve (at number 10) of projects it wants to take forward – But what does that mean?

I have long campaigned for a second railway station to be built in Maghull because the present station is getting beyond capacity. It is accessed by narrow roads and its car park is usually full to bursting. A new station to the north of Maghull would open up much wider and more convenient travel opportunities.

In reality the project has been talked about for many many, years but it never got to a ‘let’s do it stage’ until the worst possible time i.e. when the latest financial recession knocked us all for 6 from 2007 onwards. It is still the case that part funding of the station will be via a developer contribution from building on the Ashworth South Site which the proposed station will share. This site is also known as that of the former Moss Side Hospital which has remained derelict ever since it was decided not to build a new prison there.

So where are we now? I have been asking questions of Merseytravel every few months via my good friend Cllr. John Dodd who sits on Merseyside’s Integrated Transport Authority but the answers have always been negative in that money is the barrier. However, some almost good news is that the project is firmly in Merseytravel’s top twelve of projects that it wants to take forward bearing in mind very limited resources. Does this mean it will happen? Well, I suppose you could say that it remains aspirational rather than a ‘yes it will’.

This is how Merseytravel see the project:-

‘New stations on the existing network offer the potential to improve the accessibility and coverage of the Merseyrail network. They also provide the opportunity for the rail network to respond to other development and regeneration of various areas of Merseyside and the new patterns of trip making that will occur. The proposals are to provide railway station with two platforms, lifts and stepped (or ramped) access, a ticket office, two on-street bus stops, cycle routes from School Lane and Park Lane and a car Park of about 200 spaces. The railway service will be typically every 15 minutes in each direction to (1) Liverpool and (2) Ormskirk. Vehicular access is already provided to the site via an aborted scheme involving the Ministry of Justice and Sefton Council.’

And the estimated cost of construction? – £6,830,000m

So will we see this new station really take shape soonish? Well a number of factors come into play here. Firstly, will the development of the Ashworth South site for housing come on stream soon providing a financial contribution from the developer towards the project? Secondly, will the new Joint Authority proposal which effectively sees off Merseytravel as an independent transport body (and all but brings back Merseyside County Council) lead to the money being snatched to fund a Liverpool based project instead? This has to be a big worry and is one of the reasons we Lib Dems in Sefton are very much opposed to the Joint Authority with its potential for a Liverpool-centric money hoover that could leave Sefton with little more than crumbs from the table.

Keep campaigning is the only way forward to my mind because one day we may just succeed in getting Maghull’s second and much needed railway station.

My thanks to colleagues at OPSTA for providing some of the information I have used in this posting.

Merseyside Joint Authority Plan – Lib Dem Merseytravel Councillor says NO!

There has been some media coverage of a plan to get all the Merseyside Councils to form a joint authority; you could say it would be a form of recreating the long lost Merseyside County Council.

Within Sefton we Lib Dems have always been highly sceptical of such forms of local governance as the risk is that all power simply moves to Liverpool Town Hall and the diverse communities of Sefton will be the losers.

Some years ago we gave the fledgling Liverpool City Region a fair wind but that was back when it was intended to be one that brought in West Lancashire, Ellesmere Port and Neston etc. That plan withered on the vine so what is on the cards now is a return to joint council running within the old Merseyside boundaries. This is a nonsense because Merseyside is simply too small to be an effective sub-regional governance area in my view. Just look at Greater Manchester; there is some sense that as it covers the vast majority of the travel to work area of Manchester and it is big enough not to be dominated by Manchester City.

Sefton’s boundary, to a very significant extent, is with Lancashire so why should it benefit Sefton to be even more glued to Liverpool City and Knowsley Borough whilst, by implication, being less connected (in local government terms) with Lancashire?

No, this idea is not a sensible runner as far as I am concerned and neither is it to Cllr. John Dodd, a Lib Dem member of Merseytravel (The Transport Authority for Merseyside) who represents Meols ward in Southport. John opposed the controlling Labour Party on Merseytravel this week, which voted to back this Joint Authority plan, and he was right to do so.

Merseyside is simply too small to be an effective sub-regional local government grouping and Merseytravel, probably more than any other public authority across Merseyside, should know this all too well. Just look at the Merseyrail extensions that have been completed in recent years or which are being planned for/suggested. Virtually all are outside of the old County boundary meaning the travel to work area is far bigger than the old County boundary. Completed Merseyrail Wirral Line extensions to Ellesmere Port and Chester come to mind of a few years ago. So does the long talked about extension of the Northern Line from Ormskirk (in West Lancs) to Burscough (even deeper into West Lancs). Such rail extensions prove a point don’t you think?

Ormskirk – The end of the line – How daft is that!

Having been a supporter of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) for more years than I care to recall I, like many folk, continue to find the fact that the electrified Northern Line from Liverpool stops at Ormskirk.

The Merseyside commuter belt certainly goes at least as far as Burscough/Rufford whilst the logical end for this electrified service is quite obviously Preston. One day a Government of whatever colour will see the sense of extending the electrification but whether I am still breathing is a different matter.

The shot below (taken in April) is looking towards Ormskirk Station with it being just beyond the bridge in the background. Click of the picture to enlarge it.

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If you agree with me please consider joining OPSTA and maybe we can have another big push at this most stubborn of projects.
See my link to OPSTA for details of this campaigning rail group.