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

Northern finally hit the buffers but it’s only the beginning of the end of poor services

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/northern-rail-passengers-thank-god-17505478

Well the rather too obvious comment is why has it taken so long with services having been awful for far too long? Remember the Ormskirk – Preston Line being without trains at all for weeks on end in 2018?

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

But, and it’s a big but, it would be unwise to think that the day after Northern are shown the door that things will improve much as they won’t. The failings of the UK rail industry are widespread and passengers face a long wait until things get better. Government stopping electrification schemes where new electric rolling stock had already been ordered comes to mind. Network Rail being unable to complete projects on time is another. Both of these failures will have impacted upon Northern and made their operations more difficult.

A Northern Class 158 DMU at York Station

However, the message I’ve noted so many times is the perceived lack of a customer focus by Northern. Passengers being let down by trains that they only find are not running a minute or two before the train is due to depart. Lack of information at stations when train running is disrupted. Unwillingness to get get passengers to their destination when trains aren’t running for whatever reason. Trains being terminated well before their advertised destination – such as trains running to Southport being terminated at Wigan.

The deliberately fragmented nature of our railways is also a big issue that we should not forget, so this is only potentially the beginning of the end for long suffering passengers. Sacking Northern is just a start but a welcome one……

Northern Trains – Could the Ormskirk-Preston Line be the most poorly performing in the UK?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Well if it’s not I would hate to be a passenger on one that is even worse.

Last night I attended an open meeting of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) and the stories of absolute chaos on this rail route were sad and numerous. An 80-year-old lady told the meeting how she can’t get to hospital appointments in Preston due to cancellations and the fact that some of the rail replacement buses don’t call at all the stations on the line! She lives in Croston and without the train, as she does not drive, getting to Preston is very difficult indeed.

Burscough Junction Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line.

If I’m correctly informed, which I think I am, there have no trains on the line at all this week so far. What’s more, I hear that Northern are resistant to paying for taxis when the trains and rail replacement buses both fail to provide a service.

Northern are supposed to be operating an hourly service on the line since the May 2018 timetable changes but it looks like they are interpreting this as 1 a week! We heard stories of passengers missing exams, having to take time off work or even getting to the stage where their jobs may be at risk because of this poorly performing rail franchise.

Unsurprisingly, Northern is reputed to be losing a lot of money on the franchise and there seems little confidence in those who know about the local rail industry that anything is going to change much in the foreseeable future. Will Northern have to pull out of the franchise, or will it have to be taken away from them?

It’s a sorry story indeed but it is ruining the lives of passengers who rely on Northern’s trains to get to work, to hospital, do their shopping or just run their day to day lives and frankly it is just not good enough. And the big question is what are the MP’s representing constituents along the Ormskirk – Preston line doing about it? One suggestion at the meeting was to try to replicate what Tim Farron the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale did when Northern failed spectacularly on the Lakes Line from Oxenhome to Windermere – he helped organise an alternative rail provider and made the DfT/Northern pay for it.

OPSTA are going to be banging the drum very hard indeed to get local politicians to take action. Oh, and by the way, there’s a clear suspicion that when Northern is in trouble they will often choose the Ormskirk – Preston Line to cancel trains – It would be interesting to get to the bottom of that train of thought.

Northern Rail – Crisis talks with DfT?

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Railnews has the story on its website – see link below:-

railnews.mobi/news/2018/11/05-northern-in-crisis-talks-over.html

Rumours that Northern has been suffering financially have been around for a while but then again that’s surely no surprise to anyone based on their well-documented troubles.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum have been lobbying anyone who will listen about the poor levels of service on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport-Wigan-Manchester Lines for a long time now, indeed the troubles as I have often said well predate the May 2018 timetable meltdown.

But of course, Northern’s problems are far, far wider than the two local lines that I am reasonably well informed about and I have been impressed with the campaigning over these troubles by MP’s Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and Lisa Nandy (Wigan).

I appreciate that not all of Northern’s troubles are of their own making and that their franchise has been hugely impacted on in a negative way by Network Rail’s delayed electrification projects and by the related stalled cascading of rolling stock. However, the trouble is not only the financial impact on Northern, who seem to have significant industrial relations problems with their own staff but on the confidence that the travelling public has in them.

Surely ending this franchise would be best all round, would it not?

Northern Rail – Their troubles just go on and on

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

The Liverpool Echo has the story on it web page – see link below

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/northern-suddenly-cancels-train-services-15243470

For this to happen on such a busy day in Liverpool may well be surprising but in reality its not as Northern have been in a terrible mess for longer than many of us can remember. Is there any wonder some of their passengers call them Northern Fail?

Whatever the reason for today’s cancellations they fit a pattern that has become far too familiar and it really makes you wonder how on earth the Department of Transport tolerates it.

Ormskirk – Preston Trains an update on a line that’s struggled to deliver decent service levels for a very long time now

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.

Along with many railway routes across the Northern Rail franchise the Ormskirk – Preston Line has suffered some very poor levels of performance for a long time now. Indeed, whilst you may be forgiven for thinking the melt-down that is Northern Rail started when the May 2018 was brought in the reality is that the rot set in well before that on this line. Cancellations and the dreaded rail replacement buses have been the norm for much longer than that sadly.

OPSTA*, the local volunteer rail campaign group, have been trying to hold Northern Rail’s feet to the fire so to speak in an attempt to push them to address all the many problems that have beset the line and here is the latest from them:-

They have been pressing Northern on why the service has been so abysmal in recent weeks and what steps they are taking to improve.

In response Northern stated that in the last 4 weeks the majority of cancellations were down to infrastructure failure** with 40% attributable to unavailability of traincrew or a train unit. Northern has claimed actions are being taken to bring about an improved service.

From Monday (17th) a new traincrew roster/link comes into effect and this has been designed to optimise performance and minimise all traincrew related cancellations for all Lancashire routes. We will of course be monitoring closely as ever.

OPSTA are looking for response and feedback on other matters raised with Northern but one thing seems clear, the final bus replacement service (11.26 Preston departure) may not be reverted to train before December.

OPSTA will continue to pursue the issues and concerns over replacement bus services, last minute cancellations and lack of revenue protection/ticket selling.

With thanks to Alan for the lead to this posting

* Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association is a rail campaign group made up of volunteers who are dedicated to improved train services on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan – Manchester lines operated by Northern Rail

** for ‘infrastructure failure’ read Network Rail as they are responsible for the track, signaling etc. on which the trains run. The response would seem to indicate that Northern feel that the majority of problems are out of their control.