Mersey Ferry in dock to get ship shape

A good news story from Merseytravel – I copy their press release below

The Royal Iris, one of the famous Mersey Ferries, is undergoing a major scheme of repair and refurbishment to keep it ship shape and fit for service on one of the fastest tidal rivers in the world.

The 54-year-old vessel is currently in dry dock for cleaning, the painting of the hull, mechanical works and renewal of large areas of deck timber.

This will be followed by the complete strip down and inspection of both engines – work carried out after 24,000 hours service, roughly equivalent to 100,000 nautical miles.

The work, costing £500,000, is due to be completed in January next year, when the Royal Iris will return to service operating commuter sailings, River Explorer Cruises and the ever popular Manchester Ship Canal Cruises. The Snowdrop will continue to sail across the Mersey in the meantime.

Councillor Liam Robinson, chair of Merseytravel said: “This scheme of refurbishment represents a real investment in our iconic Mersey Ferries and shows our commitment to keep our vessels in tip top condition. They are one of the most popular paid-for attractions in the region and contribute a great deal to the visitor economy.”

During the programme

• A total of 320litres of paint will be used during the maintenance – including 280 litres of paint to cover the hull.
• An oil change will be carried out, using 836 litres of oil.
• Approximately 110m² Iroko timber will be used to replace areas of the top and main deck.

Ends

The Royal Iris was built in 1959 and was originally named “Mountwood”. She was the subject of a major refit 2002 which included the replacement of main engines and all engine room ancillary equipment together with remodelling of the saloons and the addition of a fixed canopy to the aft end of the promenade deck. The vessel is currently certified by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency with a Class V Passenger Certificate, allowing her to carry passengers on cross river and River Explorer Cruises and on longer Manchester Ship Canal Cruises.

Merseytravel owns and operates the famous Mersey Ferries and associated tourism attractions; the U-Boat Story, Spaceport, the Mersey Tunnel Tour, the Beatles Story, and the Beatles Story Pier Head, which contributes more than £34 million and the equivalent of 742 full-time jobs to the region’s economy.

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?

Passenger Focus publishes new research into bus passenger views on value for money.

Passenger Focus is a national group which always looks at public transport from the users perspective. This is a recent survey they did about bus services which, lets’s face it, are generally hardly of the quality to make folks leave their cars at home!

Interestingly, Cllr. John Fillis the Transport portfolio holder for Lancashire County Council told us all at the OPSTA meeting on 31st October (which I posted about) that the whole of Lancashire would fall within a Quality Bus Contract in the foreseeable future meaning the routes, ticket prices etc. will be specified by Lancs CC.

This is what Passenger Focus says:-

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We asked passengers about this as our 2013 Bus Passenger Survey showed that satisfaction with value for money ranged from 30-70 per cent – averaging at only 54 per cent. We wanted to understand what really influenced this.
The key findings are:
•passengers’ views on value for money are most influenced by getting a seat on punctual, frequent and reliable buses
•the attitude of the bus driver and the difficulties when trying to find information about timetables, routes and fares, also greatly affected passengers’ views
•young bus passengers are more reliant on buses than many other passengers and their needs for more flexibility to balance education, work and their social lives are not being met
•young passengers resent paying adult fares when they are still in education, training or low-paid work – they think that adult fares should only be charged from 18 years onwards.

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said:

“Bus fares and passenger satisfaction varies widely across the country. In many places, bus fares increase by more than inflation each year. Passengers rightly expect buses to deliver them to their destination in relative comfort at the promised time.”

Please click the link below to download the report:
www.passengerfocus.org.uk/research/publications/bus-passenger-views-on-value-for-money

Merseyrail – Now what about those promised new trains?

Modern Railways magazine – November 2013 edition has a useful update from which I have drawn out the following points of interest.

Firstly, the present electric units (507/508 types for train buffs) are going to get a refresh to take them through until the new trains arrive. They are on lease until 2018 with a potential extension of up to 1 year. The refresh will be external and internal, with a new livery. The first refreshed unit should appear in a couple of months time.

A snowy shot of Maghull Station with an Ormskirk bound train approaching

A snowy shot of Maghull Station with an Ormskirk bound train approaching

Merseyrail is working with Network Rail to develop the best wheel profiles for the new units to cope with the tight curves in the underground tunnels due to such challenges adversely affecting the present fleet.

It seems that in terms of specifications for the new fleet they are being kept to broad issues so that bidders to build the new trains can be as innovative as they can in developing their ideas.

This all sounds quite positive yet I can’t but think that the last issue I mentioned i.e. allowing train builders to come up with ideas would have been the last thing that Merseytravel (not to be confused with Merseyrail) would have done under its old and recently departed guard where socialist ‘tractor factory’ principles seemed to rule the day!

And for a bit of history try a visit to this site to look at the previous generation of electric units on the Merseyrail system:-

www.class502.org.uk/

Bus lanes suspended in Liverpool? Merseytravel’s demise is clear to see

Like many people I have seen the TV/press stories about Liverpool City Council suspending bus lanes to see if it will help traffic flow better. However TV news in particular is so short (on most things) that you never get to hear the detail. So here is some detail that I picked up via Merseytravel. The notes in brackets are ones that I have added for clarity or comment purposes.

· We (Merseytravel) will work with the council and the bus operators to collect the data and information required to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the trial is robust and evidence-based.

· We (Merseytravel) continue to believe there is merit in bus lanes; they can help improve journey times and the reliability of buses, and can make the bus network more attractive.

· There may be some bus lanes that aren’t working as effectively as they could be. A trial may help pin point where the problems lay and where improvements can be made.

· We (Merseytravel) are pleased to see that Liverpool City Council has made it clear it will be encouraging public feedback on the initiative from both public transport and non-public transport users as part of the consultation.

Q&A:

1. What’s Merseytravel’s view on the bus lanes suspension?

It is a LCC (Liverpool City Council) initiative. Merseytravel will work with Liverpool and the bus operators to collect the data and information required to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the outcome of the trial is robust and evidence-based. We do believe there is merit in bus lanes- they can help improve journey times and the reliability of buses, and can make the bus network more attractive. We do fully appreciate that there may be those that aren’t working as effectively as they could, or where the lay out or signage could be improved to assist all road users. This trial may help pin point where the problems lay and where improvements can be made.

2. LCC says that data indicates that bus lanes not leading to increased usage (of buses), does Merseytravel agree?

Bus usage is a complex picture. Caution should be urged in linking any increases or decreases in bus usage directly with the provision, or not, of bus lanes. Bus lanes are just one of a range of measures that can help increase patronage. However, in most surveys bus punctuality and reliability is the top priority for passengers.

3. How has Merseytravel been working with LCC on this initiative? (Sounds to me that Merseytravel had this foisted on them!)

This is a LCC-led initiative. We will work with LCC and the bus operators during the trial period to collect the data and information required to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the outcome is robust and evidence-based.

4. What is the view of the bus operators?

This is a question you’ll need to ask them. We’ll be working with them and LCC during the trial.

5. So how will Merseytravel work to ensure that the data and information is robust and evidence-based?

The timescales are tight to get sufficient and informative baseline data before the trial commences and we have informed LCC of that (definitely had it foisted on them!). However, working with the bus operators and other key stakeholders we are working to ensure that there is information on traffic flow, journey times and the number and type of bus users before the trial starts with the mechanisms in place to collect information on the same measures during the trial period.

6. Shouldn’t bus lanes reviews be down to Merseytravel/PTEs (Passenger Transport Executives) to do?

Merseytravel’s role is generally to look at the big picture- getting people around the city region on public transport. Supporting bus usage is obviously one part of that, with bus lanes one of a number of considerations alongside wider issues such as fare structures and whether communities are being served appropriately. The local authorities have responsibility for the maintenance of highways in their area and they are therefore often best placed to identify if something is working or not locally or needs to be reviewed. We would expect to be consulted on any plans and offering advice from a strategic perspective covering considerations such as access to bus stops and their locations and bus priorities. We can assist them in making an informed decision by ensuring they have the right evidence and information.

What you can read into all this is that Merseytravel are no longer all powerful and that Liverpool City Council are now pulling its strings.

Tackle transport problems east of Southport or don’t tell me that the Merseyside Joint Authority has credibility

I can’t help but return to that Joint Authority matter for the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside as the more I think about it the balmier it looks from Sefton’s and indeed West Lancashire’s situation. Indeed, it makes me angry just to think about it.

West Lancs Borough are all but shut out of the club and Sefton instead of pressing for a wider and far more logically based sub-regional authority that covered the real travel to work geography around Liverpool simply said to its southern Merseyside neighbours yes we will join your club. No fight, no hard negotiations, no championing of the diverse needs of Sefton’s communities just a forest of Labour hands (with some surprising Tory support) toeing the line of the other Merseyside Authorities. Even St Helens has succumbed as Labour’s previous Leader there had been replaced. She, Marie Rimmer, had stood out against a takeover by Liverpool (as had the Council Leader prior to her – Lib Dem Brian Spencer) but she was removed seemingly for her independent stance.

When I spoke at the recent Sefton Council meeting, which sadly agreed to the Borough joining this odd little club, I said there was nothing in the deal for the northern half of Sefton and indeed it could well be to its detriment. The economy of Southport is clearly dependent on what goes on in West Lancashire because it, with the Irish Sea, all but surrounds the Town. Development of Southport’s tourist/seaside economy needs a boost and significantly improved transport links through West Lancashire are the key to that.

So the challenge for this new Joint Authority to me is crystal clear; sort out the major road link that is needed between the M58 and Southport (in effect an Ormskirk by-pass) and significantly enhance and reconnect the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk – Preston railway lines. If this new Merseyside Joint Authority will commit itself to solving these problems, even though they are in West Lancashire, in say a 10 year timeframe then maybe sceptics like me will have a change of heart. Until I see the Joint Authority say ‘we will solve these issues’ written in blood then don’t ask because a combination of Merseytravel, Lancashire County Council, West Lancs Borough Council and Sefton Council have singularly failed to get these two major projects off the ground since local government reorganisation in 1974!

If I have one huge regret from my time as Leader of Sefton Council it is that this east of Southport transport conundrum was not solved. I heard much sympathy, lots of warm words and many encouraging noises but at the end of the day nothing happened.

I think the people and businesses of Southport have every right to be angry at this situation and I say this despite the valiant efforts of the Town’s MP John Pugh and many of his Lib Dem councillor colleagues. Will the Joint (Liverpool centric) Authority finally sort this out; will they even care about it? Frankly, I severely doubt it and Southport will miss out once again. And please, if they do think about taking this challenge up – no more warm words PLEASE!