An OPSTA meeting in Croston – So are things looking brighter on the recently appalling (for cancellations) Ormskirk – Preston line

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Croston is a lovely largish village which is somewhat isolated in public transport terms with few if any local bus services. And those that do run seem to be permanently under threat.

But what Croston does though have is a railway station on the Ormskirk – Preston line, a line that in the early 1980s was under threat of closure itself and the reason the then OPTA (Ormskirk Preston Travellers Assn) campaign group was formed. That battle was won although there were some amusing reminiscences at the meeting held last Wednesday about politician Den Dover having to leave a campaign meeting because his stance was not seen to be one that helped the then beleaguered line.

Croston Station

But as readers of this blog site will know the performance of Northern Trains on the line was in the utterly appalling category during 2018, indeed it got so bad that it made the BBC national TV news. That the BBC got hold of the story was down to OPSTA (notice the change of name to include Southport) and some very determined Croston residents. Thankfully performance has very much improved in recent weeks but OPSTA continues to monitor the on-time performance of every train and Northern know it.

A guest at the meeting was Cllr. Keith Iddon the Transport portfolio holder on Lancashire County Council. The impression he gave to the meeting was one of optimism for the Ormskirk – Preston Line. He clearly backs the idea of Merseyrail trains running through Ormskirk on to Preston, indeed if anything he came over as more optimistic about that happening than Liam Robinson (the Chair of Merseytravel) did at a similar OPSTA public forum held in Southport a few months back.

Burscough Junction Station

We pressed Keith on the need to run trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line on Sundays whether or not the line is eventually taken over by Merseytravel – they would do that as a matter of course. He promised to take that request away and speak to Rail North about it. Rail North is in effect the northern branch of the Department for Transport.

If I recall correctly Cllr. Iddon referred to himself as someone from a truck driving background and thereby hangs an ever-present problem in Councils – their engineers are 99 times out of a hundred from a roads/highways background so they know little of the ways of the railway industry. Bearing in mind that many councils are responsible for transport in all its forms this must put them at a disadvantage, indeed they must miss opportunities because of the lack of expertise in railways. By the way, I’m not criticising Cllr. Iddon here, his working background is just as worthy as anyone else’s, I just use what he said to help illustrate a point that has long concerned me and which I witnessed when serving as a councillor on Sefton Borough Council.

Rufford Station

So are things on an upward curve for the Ormskirk – Preston Line? We can only hope so because so many passengers were left stranded day after day during Northern’s troubles, which are not at an end even now. Terrible communication issues with passengers, very poor rail replacement buses and a feeling that that Northern look upon the Rail North/DfT as their real customer who has to be satisfied rather than poor travelling public whom they let down day after day. The only way is upwards and please get the line into the Merseyrail system ASAP, it really is a no-brainer…..

Maghull – Views of our presently closed down railway

I decided to have a good look at what Network Rail and their contractors are up to whilst the Liverpool – Ormskirk Northern Line of Merseyrail has been shut down for enabling works to take place so the stations are ready for the new class 777 Stadler EMU’s in 2020. All the photos were taken on 5th November.

The first couple of shots show the ongoing platform works at Maghull Station:-

This next shot in effect shows why the works are being done at stations across the Merseyrail network:-

If you look carefully (it may be best to click on the photo to see it enlarged) you will see that the floor of the new trains will be level with the platforms and a small gap filler will come out when the train stops at a station. This is so that people with disabilities, wheelchairs, and bikes can be wheeled straight onto the new trains without the need for station staff to meet trains with portable ramps as at present with the current 507/508 trains.

Here’s a look back at Maghull Station from Poverty Lane and a look northwards from Poverty Lane in the direction of Maghull North Station. Clearly, other works were being undertaken during the shut down such as cutting back overgrowing trees:-

We then move on to the new Maghull North Station where I think that snagging work from the previous works was taking place. There was scaffolding around the lift towers but I could not get a close look as I was advised to leave the station by a member of Merseyrail’s staff. I had wandered onto the station footbridge and had not seen any warning signs but advised to leave I was. The following photo was taken looking back at the station from the Park lane overbridge:-

And finally a look north from the Park Lane overbridge in the direction of Town Green Station. Again other works were clearly taking place in the distance during the shut down of the line:-

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them

Maghull – It’s new North Station certainly has had it’s fair share of snagging issues

I guess that any new building and construction will have its snagging issues but Maghull’s new North station certainly has had what some folk would suggest is more than its fair share.

* No level access off School Lane for pedestrians, cycles and those with disability until 3 months after the station was opened and still no dropped kerb off School Lane for cyclists.

* A rather strong smell which I’m told is now being attended to.
* Lifts not working to platforms for first couple of weeks after station opening.
* Still a non-functioning public toilet

* No pedestrian/cycle path from Park Lane yet

* Appalling noise from testing of PA system
* Why only one small open shelter on the busy Liverpool bound platform?

Another issue raised by some locals is the old 6ft wooden boarded fence which has mostly been taken away but for part that fronts the station onto School Lane. Yes it presently has artwork on large banners affixed to it that was produced by local school children but obviously those banners will have a limited life. What happens to the old fence then? It will be no positive advert for Merseyrail that’s for sure when the banners are gone.

And of course there’s some head scratching going on about why the bus stops are a fair step or fifty away from the station:-

Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that it’s been built as I campaigned for it over many years but I really do wonder about the detail of the project management. And you may wonder why I’ve not mentioned the size of the car park which is clearly a problem too i.e. it seems to be far too small. Well yes it is but that’s really a consequence of the lack of adequate car parking at the 3 stations north of Maghull North, indeed Aughton Park has none at all! Also the pricing structure of tickets can encourage folk to drive to Maghull’s 2 stations to pick up a Liverpool bound train. Trouble is this in turn means that whilst Maghull has a vast car park and Maghull North has a reasonably sized one there’s no room on a normal work day in either for Maghull, Lydiate and Melling resident’s cars unless they get there very early. This unfortunate conundrum, which will inevitably lead to more and more commuter’s cars being parked on the Poppy Fields Estate, needs to be addressed by Merseytravel & Lancashire County Council.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Maghull – Foot and cycle path to Park Lane from new station

I’ve raised this issue a few times recently as back when the Poppy Fields housing estate site was down to be a new prison there was, along with the new Maghull North Station, an access path to be constructed right through to Park Lane. The path was brought into the the design of the site so to provide easier access to the new station for residents in the Park Lane area.

Here’s part of the access path looking towards Park Lane from Maghull North Station car park. Like Goldcrest Road it was constructed as part of the initial works for the prison that was cancelled.

My concern and indeed that of others has been that whilst the new station has been completed there’s no sign of the path being completed and opened up. This led me to chase up Merseytravel and Sefton Council and I now have what looks like some good news. This statement is from Sefton Council Highways Dept:-

I can confirm that I have persuaded Persimmon Homes to incorporate this footpath within their formal s38 Highways Act 1980 submission for the roads and footpath to be put forward to the Council for formal adoption. They will in turn become highways maintainable at public expense.

My thanks to Sefton Highways for chasing this matter through and gaining a good end result. It will just be a question of time now before the footpath/cycle path is completed and opened up for public use. That timescale is presently unknown and is down, I understand, to the phasing of the house builder’s works on the Poppy Fields site.

Hope that helps? Oh and BTW Sefton Highways have also agreed to take up the issue of the requested dropped kerb (for cyclists) onto School Lane where the recently opened level access to the new station reaches the pavement.

Rimrose Valley – New road protests against Highway’s England’s Plans

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

The BBC has the latest story regarding the protests against the proposed new road on its web site – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-45698331

Footpath and cycle path through the lovely Rimrose Valley County Park

Separately I’m hearing, via informed railway sources, that the lack of progress with regard to improved rail freight facilities/rail connections to the Port of Liverpool may be putting Network Rail in the spotlight. It seems clear to me that the less containers that go by train to and from the Port then the more will have to go via road.

Class 66 Diesel Locos at Seaforth Container Terminal

I also understand that the biomass trains from the Port to Drax Power Station need to travel by a more direct rail route to feed the ongoing demand. Having said that it’s debatable, to me, how long these wood pellet trains will run as the environmental benefits of the fuel are at best dubious.

Happy to correct anything in this posting if my sources are not correct.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Maghull – At last, level access to Maghull North Station

Well we’ve waited for 3 months but finally level access to Maghull’s new North Station has been provided off School Lane and it was open yesterday:-

Still no dropped kerb for cyclists though, so they can access the path, so time to put some pressure on Sefton Council to get that work done. And surely the bill should be paid by Merseytravel, should it not? This is the offending kerb:-

More news when I get it.