Skem’s reconnection to national rail network hits buffers

The old Skelmersdale Station – now long gone in the name of 1960’s progress!

Well, it’s been a long time coming and I guess quite a bit of cash must have been spent (in person-hours particularly) in the planning but Government has probably unsurprisingly run for the hills over the cost of reconnecting Skelmersdale to the national rail network. The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

I say unsurprisingly as folk I know who are knowledgeable of Lancashire’s politics and indeed its railways have been indicating such an outcome pretty much ever since this major project, with its eye-watering costs, was first proposed. Here’s a link back to an earlier posting of mine (from 2015) on the matter:-

Of course, the new and 2nd Merseyrail station for Kirkby at Headbolt Lane did get the go-ahead (plus funding) and it is actually being built right now.

When you consider that this latest knock-back for the North West comes on top of the HS2 Goulbourne link being axed and the reconnection of Burscough Curves being blocked yet again it makes the ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda look as worthless as was the Northern Powerhouse, or Poorhouse as my old chum, Jim Ford, accurately once labelled it.

Maghull North Station – Still not disability and cycle accessible without a long detour

This is the only pedestrian/cycle access off School Lane without a long detour to the entrance to the new Poppy Fields estate.

As a level/accessible entrance/exit to the new Maghull North Station has still not been created off School Lane, despite the station being open for a couple of months now, I thought it was time to put some pressure on Merseytravel. My previous posting on this matter from 23rd July is accessible below:-

With the help of Merseytravel Committee member Cllr. John Dodd I got a response from Merseytravel which firmly puts the ball in the court of Persimmon the builder/developer of the adjacent Poppy Fields housing development. This is what Merseytravel have said:-

‘the accessible path linking School Lane adjacent to the bus stops to the station is contained on Persimmon Homes land (outside the railway and station footprint).

The issue has been recognised earlier and contact has been made with Persimmon to reinstate the path as soon as is possible in light of the issues this causes for passengers and residents. We were informed that they would do this, but there has been a passage of time since during which this work has not been done.

We have continued to apply pressure to them to reinstate this path but would welcome any support from Sefton and local Councillors to encourage Persimmon to complete this work.’

This is the access point which Merseytravel are referring to:-

So the spotlight is now shining on Persimmon Homes to get a wriggle on and complete the required work so that there is a level/accessible entrance to the new station off School Lane. Come on Persimmon surely this is a minor task in the great scheme of your housing development works at Poppy Fields. Surely we all want to see life made a little easier for those who can’t manage steps and indeed for cyclists arriving at the new station from the Maghull direction.

Cllr. Edie Pope and I would welcome any pressure that others can put on Persimmon. Their e-mail address is:-

Merseyrail – I call it their ambitions map


Please click on the map above to enlarge it

This map, if you examine it carefully details the potential extensions to the Merseyrail electrified network that may or indeed may not come about. It comes from a recent presentation to Merseytravel Committee members.

I realise that even when you have clicked on it that good eyesight is required to pick out the detail.

Merseyrail rolling stock replacement – Latest news

This is a subject that must be in the top 3 that I have posted about in recent times; it is certainly quite a saga of false dawns. But hey maybe this time the project really is a runner; we can only hope so.

From this:-

The present Merseyrail rolling stock Class 507/8 EMU's) at Southport Station.

The present Merseyrail rolling stock Class 507/8 EMU’s) at Southport Station.

To this?:-

Could the new rolling stock look like this?

Could the new rolling stock look like this?

The following is from a presentation to Merseytravel Committee members on 1st October 2015

Fleet Replacement – Rationale

• The underlying reasons to consider fleet replacement are:
– Limited passenger carrying capacity combined with the ongoing growth in patronage which would lead to increasing overcrowding if no action was taken
– The age of the current fleet which at 37 years old is amongst the oldest in the UK and will become increasingly expensive to maintain
• A comprehensive business case has been prepared which has explored all of options ranging from doing nothing, through refurbishment of the existing fleet to replacement with new trains
• The project needs to be considered as a complete system, so due consideration has been given to infrastructure upgrades, modernisation of the maintenance facilities and impacts on the operator
• The economic and financial case for fleet replacement is the most attractive option and can be funded with no impact on the Merseytravel levy
• Fleet replacement will provide tangible improvements for passengers including;
– Increased capacity
– Reduced journey times
– Improved travelling environment (air conditioning, passenger information, improved comfort etc…)
– Easier boarding and alighting
• Passenger surveys have been undertaken to help shape the specification and consultation on key features of the project will be continued throughout the design process
• The project improves connectivity across the city region thereby boosting economic activity by £70m p.a. and leading to the creation of 1,000 jobs

Long Term Rail Strategy

• The project will lead to the Merseyrail network being comprehensively modernised, thereby becoming the platform from which Merseytravel’s Long Term Rail Strategy (LTRS) can be successfully delivered
• The new trains will initially replace the current fleet and operate over the existing 3rd rail network
• However they will be designed such that they can be converted to dual voltage operation and operate additionally on the overhead electrified network
• This feature, together with the ability to order additional trains, will enable the Merseyrail Electrics network to be extended with a uniform fleet as projects within the LTRS are delivered

Fleet Replacement – Key Features

• The new fleet will carry significantly more passengers than the current one, have better acceleration and braking performance and provide a better travelling environment for passengers
• It is anticipated that the new trains will be operated in a different manner to the existing fleet as modern rolling stock is designed for driver controlled operation, rather than relying on a guard to “dispatch” the train
• However Merseytravel recognises the important role that guards currently play in reassuring passengers and will work with Merseyrail to ensure that changes to staffing structures do not disadvantage passengers
• The current fleet is owned by Angel Trains, one of the ROSCOs which were established when British Rail was privatised. It is intended that Merseytravel will own the new fleet which will be leased to the operator. This is the most financially efficient approach, enabling access to highly competitive sources of funding
• The rolling stock market has evolved considerably since the current fleet was built. The fleet is currently maintained “in house” by Merseyrail, which reflects how the industry was structured pre-privatisation
• Merseytravel has considered a wide range of commercial strategies and has concluded that the bundling of the rolling stock, depot re-construction and maintenance into a single set of contracts with one supplier optimises risk transfer and value for money
• The strategy is well proven in the market. Dialogue with industry has shown that there is capability and appetite for this approach which is expected to be beneficial to Merseyrail and will be explored through the procurement phase
• If this approach is adopted, maintenance would be carried out through a subcontract to Merseyrail and Merseyrail’s engineering workforce would be transferred to the new train builder under TUPE regulations

Funding and Commercial Strategy

To date £5.76m has been invested in the programme by Merseytravel drawn from reserves
• Network Rail funded their initial participation, MEL have invested considerable effort at their own expense
• Analysis to date has been undertaken on the basis that Merseytravel funds the project directly as this provides access to the most cost-effective funding sources
– Merseytravel has accumulated £65million of reserves which could potentially be invested in the project
– Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) funding is available
– European Investment Bank (EIB) have assessed the project and have advised that it could be eligible for up to 50% funding of the capital value. At present EIB funding is more competitive than PWLB
• Other potential funding sources will be continue to explored in parallel with undertaking the procurement
• The competition will be advertised in the OJEU, using the negotiated procedure – Merseytravel envisages having 4-5 world class, motivated bidders
• The capital works will be contracted by Merseytravel, while the maintenance will be provided through a subcontract to Merseyrail
• Collaborative working will be a key feature of the programme

Fleet Replacement – Timescales

• The procurement phase is planned to commence following the meeting of the Merseytravel Committee on the 1st October 2015
• The main contract award, which will typically include depot upgrades and maintenance as well as providing the fleet, is planned by the end of 2016
• The infrastructure works are planned to develop in parallel with the main procurement, reaching GRIP3 by the end of 2016
• The upgrades to the infrastructure, which consist primarily of power supply reinforcement and regularisation of the platform – track relationship, thereby improving the interface with the train are scheduled to have been completed before delivery of the new fleet starts in 2019
• The new fleet will be fully introduced into service in the early 2020s at which point there will be a change to the timetable, taking advantage of the new trains’ improved performance and the reinforcement of the power supply to reduce journey times