Liverpool to Chester by train – It demonstrates why passengers think our railways are dysfunctional

Having heard about the new(ish) train connecting Liverpool to Chester (via Liverpool South Parkway, Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby) I decided I needed to try it out.

My TfW Liverpool – Chester train (via Frodsham)

Did you know Liverpool to Chester (and back) is now served by 5 daytime trains each hour – 4 Merseyrail and 1 Transport for Wales. You may not even know that Transport for Wales runs a train between the two destinations because if you use the internet to call up Liverpool – Chester trains invariably it will default to the Merseyrail Service. Certainly if I had not known about the TfW hourly service I would never have found it via the usual rail enquiry sites. Both trains call at or terminate at Liverpool Lime Street – Merseyrail via the underground platforms and TfW via the mainline platforms.

But after quite some faffing about on the internet I found the TfW timetable and rocked up to buy a ticket at Lime Street Station but even then the really helpful lady I bought the ticket from seemed to expect me to want to go via Merseyrail – This new TfW service is being kept very quiet indeed. I had to say I want to go via Frodsham before she realised I did know what I was asking for although I did wonder if she was also wondering where my carer was.

I got on the 11.36 train and it was almost empty but based on what I’ve already said I can’t say I was surprised. But what a nice ride it was, the TfW 3 carriage Class 175 DMU’s are comfortable and I had a table all to myself. I spread out my flask, sandwiches, crisps etc. and made a mess, which I subsequently cleaned up I might add. My ticket was checked by a very polite guard. Just behind me an older couple had found an item that had been left on the inbound service to Liverpool from Chester. What impressed me was the care and attention the guard took and the assurance that he would hand the item in a Chester’s lost people, animals, baggage office.

The service takes a few minutes more than Merseytravel as it travels a longer route but frankly you would not notice the difference. And now my gripe…..

Just before the train set off we were given a friendly lecture (oddly not with a Welsh accent nor indeed was it repeated in the Welsh language), via an announcement, on what would happen to any passenger found to have a Liverpool – Chester ticket on them meant for the Merseyrail service. Basically, being forced to listen to Max Boyce jokes would be their punishment. I nearly got off at that very moment even though I had the right ticket in case they started to play the jokes via the tannoy anyway. I got the distinct impression that TfW may have to deal with this sort of problem regularly so they were hoping that any miscreants holding a Liverpool – Chester ticket would get off their Liverpool – Chester train before they had to call British Transport Police out. But how would the miscreants have known about the all but secret TfW train in the first place?

Now call me grumpy but what the hell does it matter which train you get to Chester from Liverpool Lime Street if you’ve bought a ticket – same start point, same finish point and almost the same travelling time. The only difference is the particular pieces of track your train clicks and clacks along. This nonsensical situation sums up our dysfunctional railway system to me. Integrated transport my foot.

My Merseyrail train from Chester to Liverpool

Interestingly, on my return journey via Merseyrail there was no announcement about what would happen to passengers who got on their train with a TfW Chester – Liverpool ticket. Maybe they’d rather not say as their punishment could be chucking off such unwelcome passengers at Bache (how do you pronounce that?) Station to collect trolleys in the adjacent Morrisons car park? But then again Merseyrail don’t seem check tickets on their trains so you’d not come unstuck until you encountered a ticket barrier at a central Liverpool Station. Oh no, you’d be sent to Mersey Ferries to listen to Gerry Marsden singing Ferry Cross The Mersey on continuous loop (readers of Bill Bryson’s book Notes from a Small Island will get this one) until you promised not to fall foul of railway rules again.

A world where a train ticket is only valid via one route to the same destination is one where the powers that be just can’t be bothered to put the passenger first. There got that off my chest.

I actually enjoyed my trip and will gladly travel to Chester via the TfW train again, although I’d be even more glad if my Merseytravel old beggars travel card would be accepted on it, but that’s another story.

Merseyrail – Some detail on those new trains now the first one is on test at Kirkdale

A mock-up of a Class 777 Stadler EMU as displayed in Birkenhead a while back

The Railway Gazette has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.railwaygazette.com/uk/merseyrail-class-777-arrives-in-liverpool/55686.article

A mock-up of a Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

So is Skem’ to get linked to Merseyrail? It’s still a wait and see

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

The Liverpool Echo has the latest in what is clearly going to be a very long saga with at present an uncertain outcome – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/skelmersdale-could-finally-merseyrail-station-17549470

Ormskirk – Preston Line – Turn it over to Merseyrail

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet.

As the painful (for passengers) demise of Northern Rail has all but been announced by Government is it not time to take the opportunity to take one of the UK’s most poorly operated lines out of the Northern Franchise and hand it to a rail operator which regularly tops the league table for reliability and performance – Merseyrail.

Let’s look at the advantages of doing that:-

* Gaining reliable trains on a line which has suffered so much from unreliable trains in recent years
* Being able to travel from Liverpool to Preston without having to change trains in Ormskirk
* Get the frequency of trains up from just 1 per hour north of Ormskirk (when they actually run) and bring in much needed Sunday services too

Disadvantages:-

* Er I can’t think of any
* Er I can’t think of any
* Er I can’t think of any

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Let’s stop mucking about and do the most sensible and logical thing to bring back the Liverpool – Preston rail corridor as one whole operation rather than having Ormskirk as the muddle in the middle. Everyone would win from such a move

Liverpool – 1957 – A brouchure from when the City’s last tramcar ran

This 40 page illustrated booklet was printed by Tinlings of Liverpool a well known printing company of the day.

I was lucky recently to pick up a copy of ‘The First Sixty Years’ booklet which describes itself as ‘A pictorial record of the Liverpool Corporation Passenger Transport undertaking issued on the occasion of the last tramcar running in Liverpool on the 14th September 1957’

It’s a fascinating read and is well illustrated with photos of the trams, buses and indeed the people who worked for the Corporation’s Passenger Transport Department up until that date. Now, of course, passenger transportation in Liverpool is a Merseyside County-wide/City Region operation run by Merseytravel.

Liverpool’s last tram as depicted on a postcard *

I was interested to see the illustration below from the booklet of a tramcar that ran from Aintree to Aigburth until the 1930’s:-

What’s really good news is that two former Liverpool Corporation trams are alive and very well. One is easily accessed at Wirral Transport Museum in Birkenhead (it’s known as a ‘Baby Grand’) and the other (Liverpool Streamline Tram 869) is at the National Tramway Museum in Crich, Derbyshire. Both are in working order having been fully restored and the one at Wirral Transport Museum (Taylor Street Birkenhead) is regularly out on the track to and from Woodside Ferry Terminal on Museum open days.

‘Baby Grand’ Tramcar 245 at Woodside Ferry Terminal.

Liverpool Tram 869 at Crich Tramway Village, Derbyshire.

* The tramcar was bought by the Seashore Trolley Museum of Kennebunkport, Maine, U.S. and shipped via Boston, Massachusetts in 1958. As of 2017, it was at the back of a shed at the Museum, and in poor condition. – source Wikipedia

Maghull – Book sharing scheme at the new(ish) Maghull North Station

The new mini library at Maghull North Station

Local resident Frank Sharp has launched a book sharing scheme at the new Maghull North Railway Station akin to the one that is run by the Station Volunteers at the original Maghull Station.

Maghull Station Library run by the Station Volunteers

Organisers hope it will encourage a sense of community and ownership of the new station. Frank thanks Merseytravel’s senior rail project manager Darren Hazlewood and Merseyrail’s Sally Ralston, for allowing the installation of a bookcase and books which have been freely donated by the local community.

The initiative follows on with similar initiatives at other railway stations (not just in Maghull) and the international Little Free Library organisation, which aims to increase book access and forge community connections.

Says Frank “The idea is simply to encourage the community to emulate other railway stations and organisations by taking a book or leaving one – anything you’ve read and would like others to enjoy. The more people use it, the more fun it will be, and the more it circulates. Hopefully, it will also encourage a sense of community and ownership around the new station, akin to the brilliant award winning work undertaken by volunteers at Maghull’s older station.”

Editor – It all sounds great to me so I’ll now share the books and magazines I donate to the old Maghull Station across the Town’s two stations. I hope others will join in too. Please try to remember to add a book when you take one, or soon afterwards, otherwise the system does not really work.