How Preston’s transport plan could benefit Southport & the Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Line

The graphic above*, which you will need to click on to enlarge for reading, is an extract from the recently published Preston City Transport Plan. It’s an important document because it discusses much needed transport, in this case rail, improvements to the south and west of Preston.

If you look closely the document is promoting the re-connection of the Burscough North Curve so that trains can once again travel between Preston and Southport. This is what the curves looked like when they were in place in the 1960’s:-

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

OPSTA, the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travelers Association has been promoting the re-connection of the Burscough Curves since the 1980’s and they have been the driving force behind improving the Ormskirk – Preston Line and the reopening of Midge Hall Station. But it’s been an uphill struggle with Lancashire County Council (the Transport Authority) seeming being at best lukewarm about the line the present train operator (Northern) struggling to deliver the present basic service reliably.

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Northern trains meet.

Another way forward is for Merseyrail to run trains all the way from Liverpool Central to Preston via the removal of the buffer stops at Ormskirk and other signaling/track improvements. To me this has always been the most sensible solution to bring the Ormskirk – Preston Line up to its true potential, together of course with the introduction of Southport – Preston trains. The fact that some of Merseyrail’s soon to arrive Class 777 Stadler rolling stock will now have battery operation facility (this had been in doubt previously) then them operating on the line without the need for expensive electrification equipment opens up real opportunities.

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

Graphic Notes:-
* ‘P’ is Preston – Numbers 2, 3 & 6 are points along the Ormskirk – Preston Railway Line – 2 is the proposed new Coote Lane Station – 3 being the proposed reopening of Midge Hall Station and 6 is where the connecting Burscough Curves are situated i.e. where the Ormsirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines cross each other.

Nodding Donkeys – The Pacer, a bus on railway wheels, is still sadly with us

A Pacer at Preston Station

I came across the You Tube video (see link below) pretty much by chance even though it’s on a matter I have blogged about a number of times before i.e. the infamous ‘Nodding Donkeys’ of the railway world made from bus bodies and freight van trucks. However Southport rail campaigner Eric Woodcock is on the video explaining in straight forward terms how the much derided Pacer trains came about. It’s an interesting watch……

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucA5xIgjZBc

Inside a down at heel Pacer on the Ormskirk Preston Line

My good friend and former MP for Southport John Pugh campaigned to rid us of these terrible trains and here’s a link back to his work on the matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/07/pacers-are-thankfully-on-their-last-legs-or-is-that-wheels/

Northern on the rocks and not before time in my view

‘The government is considering whether the management of the North of England’s largest rail commuter service should be taken into public hands’ – BBC website

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50067806

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Southport – Wigan – Manchester trains – 5 days with no trains running due to bridge replacement

Passengers are being warned about a five-day closure of the railway in November to renew a bridge over the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

The bridge in Burscough will be completely replaced as part of the Great North Rail Project. In order to carry out the major work no trains will run between Southport or Parbold stations from Saturday 16 until Wednesday 20 November.

To allow engineers to carry out the work, there will also be a seven day closure of the canal tow path beneath the bridge from Friday 15 November.

During the closure, work will also be undertaken to upgrade over 400m of track drainage at Hoscar Lane station, as well as replacing sleepers and sections of rail in the Southport station area.

Passengers are being advised that bus replacement services will operate during the closure.

To inform passengers about changes to train services, posters will be displayed at all affected stations. Information hand out’s to passengers travelling during the morning peak (week commencing 14 October) will also take place I understand.

Passengers are being advised to allow extra time for their journeys and to check before they travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk

My thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting

Northern is going to the wall according to TSSA trade union

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/northern-rail-crisis-likely-go-16414510

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Well the indications keep on coming that Northern Assist is at best struggling and let’s be honest none of us will be surprised or indeed disappointed if the company has to pull out of the Northern Franchise.

Kirkby – Wigan – Manchester Trains

End of the line from Wigan, the Merseyrail service to Liverpool is accessed under the bridge.

A curiosity and I imagine a real frustration for users of this line from the May 19th timetable changes by Northern is this:-

A double-headed (2 loco) train departs Knowsley Freight Terminal on its way to Wilton Power Station.

So it seems, according to Northern that is, that the troubled timekeeping on the Kirkby – Wigan – Manchester line is due to the freight trains to and from Knowsley Freight Terminal causing delays. The freight trains, usually 4 movements per day (2 in – 2 out), take Merseyside’s non-recyclable waste to Wilton Power Station in the north east for burning to create electricity. I’ve posted about these freight trains previously – here’s a link to that previous posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/08/what-happens-to-merseysides-rubbish-that-cant-be-recycled/

The question is, of course, what is going to happen between now and the December 2019 timetable changes to fix the delays allegedly being caused by the freight trains on this line? Also, when I’ve checked, the freight trains seem to be running pretty much to their timetable. What’s more they’ve been running for some years now and will continue well into the future.

There’s more to this story than meets the eye me thinks and it means 7 months of passengers having to change trains at Wigan Wallgate Station outside of peak times.