Pacers are thankfully on their last legs or is that wheels

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

An alternative title for this posting could ‘Well John Pugh are you happy now?’ because during his time as MP for Southport John fought to get the appalling Pacer Trains replaced. To be fair many, many other people were on a similar track (sorry about the pun) but John made it onto a BBC North West TV programme about his fight to rid the rails of Pacers.

John has now returned to his political roots as a Sefton Councillor and leads the opposition on Sefton Council.

My previous relevant posting (amongst many!) about Pacers, because it links to the BBC TV programme that John Pugh appeared in, is accessible via the link below:-

John’s contribution to the programme is at about the 12 minute mark.

And here’s a video of the new trains being built in Spain:-

Mobility Scooters and Northern’s aged train fleet sadly don’t mix

Mind the gap – It is often the height difference between a train door and station platform which causes difficulties for those with a disability.

The Liverpool Echo has the story on it s web site – see link above

How long has the Disabled Discrimination Act (DDA) been in place? Well it came into effect in 2005 and was then added to/superseded by the Equities Act of 2010 yet still people with disabilities are left at a disadvantage.

Frankly it is not good enough in my book.

The photo is amongst my flickr shots at:-

Network Rail – Yet another electrification project ends up in the slow line

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

This is interesting and potentially far reaching as the new timetable, for introduction next May, was meant to have this electrified route up and running. If it’s not then it potentially causes all sorts of problems and the Northern rail franchise in particular may well be in a pickle.

In a pickle because they along with other rail operating companies have either been ordering new rolling stock and/or getting it cascaded to them from other franchise operators. If you have too many electric powered trains because there’s a late completion of a project such as the Manchester – Preston electrification and too few diesel trains trains because you were expecting to be running electric ones then that’s the pickle.

This then means that planned for service improvements, long promised and planned for, may be delayed. And it could be that rail operating companies like Northern may well be saying to Network Rail and the Department for Transport that it’s a pickle they are jointly responsible for not the rail operating company, so sort out the mess and don’t be blaming us!

Here’s a link to a Network Rail video about the difficulties they have encountered on the Manchester – Preston route electrification:-

With thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting

Preston by train from Ormskirk

We decided to go to Preston recently but to go by train from Ormskirk on that almost backwater line that has an irregular service.

My previous posting of not so long ago about Ormskirk, details the history of the bizarre splitting of the through Liverpool – Preston line at this market town. See link below to that posting:-

Ormskirk Station at night.

Ormskirk Station at night.

We got the 1.24 from from Ormskirk, one of only 13 trains to Preston that day. On a similar weekday there are trains to and from Ormskirk to Liverpool every 15 minutes daytime and every half hour in the evenings!

Burscough Junction Station

Burscough Junction Station

First stop was Burscough Junction Station. Firstly, there is no junction and has not been for many, many years because some bright sparks in the 1960’s took away the connecting curves (The Burscough Curves) to the Southport – Wigan Line which our train crossed on a bridge soon after this station stop. The other noticeable thing is that Burscough is expanding fast with many new homes around Burscough (No) Junction Station and many more to come I hear. Shame they will get such an irregular railway service to Ormskirk and Preston.*

Rufford Station

Rufford Station

Next came Rufford, where there is a passing loop for the trains that don’t pass each other any more! The same diesel unit usually trundles between Ormskirk & Preston all day. Rufford is of course famous for its Old Hall, a very nice National Trust property that is well worth a visit.

Rufford Old Hall

Rufford Old Hall

Croston Station

Croston Station

The final stop before Preston was Croston a pleasant village that suffered terrible flooding only a few months ago.

Between Croston and Preston is a disused Station with the building, on the Preston bound side of the line, still standing although not in railway use any more. The Station was called Midge Hall and there have been calls for it to be reopened due to new housing going up on the former Leyland Test Track quite near to it.

The middle section of the line is not continuously welded rail so the familiar clickity-clack of the train going over the rail joints is quiet apparent. Indeed, we were riding on an infamous Class 142 Pacer or ‘Nodding Donkey’ or Pile of Crap depending on your view of them. They were built for lightly loaded railway lines based on a bus body and just 4 wheels on each of the two carriages. You soon get to realise why they became nick-named Nodding Donkeys on the jointed rails! They really do bounce up and down. Pacers are due to be phased out by around 2018/19 and that can’t come soon enough. They even have bus type seating from the 1970’s, well at least the one we were on did. Not uncomfortable but definitely from a long gone era.

Checking Tickets

Checking Tickets

The West Lancs countryside is lovely, with the Rufford Branch of the Leeds Liverpool canal following the line and a canal marina to see. The conductors were friendly and seemed to be very diligent in checking tickets both there and back. The rail franchise to run Northern trains changed on 1st April and Arriva now operate most trains in the north of England. I hear that the previous operator was not good at checking tickets but as I say the new one seems to be.

If you have need to travel to Preston why not go by train, its a nice trip it was only £5 return during the day and we really enjoyed it.

* One of the promises made my the new Arriva franchisee is that the Ormskirk – Preston Line will gain an hourly service equating to 17 trains per day (but oddly still no trains on a Sunday) from December 2017. Why on earth do railway planners think folks don’t move around on a Sunday and Ormskirk is a university town too!

Why not check out OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) who campaign to have this line upgraded (and the Southport Wigan Line). Their web site is at:-

Transpennine Express and Northern Replacement Franchises Liverpool City Region Priorities

I came across the document below recently and it seems to be a reasonable attempt to define priorities for rail in and around the Liverpool City Region. Note that the Penny has thankfully dropped about the Southport Manchester services being of importance for improvement amongst our City Region leaders.



The Invitation to Tender for the new TransPennine Express franchise is due to be issued in December 2014 to the following three shortlisted bidders:
• First Trans Pennine Express Limited
• Keolis Go-Ahead Limited
• Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited.

The Invitation to Tender for the new Northern franchise is due to be issued in December 2014 to the following three shortlisted bidders:
• Abellio Northern Ltd
• Arriva Rail North Limited
• Govia Northern Limited

This note highlights the key issues for Liverpool City Region. Further details can be found in Merseytravel’s Consultation Response.

It is vital to ensure bidders fully understand the size and economic importance of the Liverpool City Region:
• Population of 1.5m people, expected to increase by 3.9% by 2030
• Growth of employment by 12.7% over the same period leading to more business travel and commuting into the LCR
• Major centre for tourism with 52.9m day visitors and 4.7m day visitors each year, with Liverpool the 5th most visited destination in the UK by overseas tourists
• Four universities in Liverpool with a total of over 40 000 students, and
• A region which regularly hosts major sporting events.

Current Service Provision

Trans Pennine Express

• Hourly Liverpool Lime Street – Manchester Victoria – Leeds – York – Newcastle
• Hourly Liverpool Lime Street – Warrington Central – Manchester Piccadilly – Leeds – York – Scarborough


• Hourly fast Liverpool Lime Street – St. Helens Central – Wigan North Western – Preston – Blackpool North
• Hourly fast Liverpool Lime Street – Newton-le-Willows – Manchester Piccadilly – Manchester Airport
• Half hourly stopping Liverpool Lime Street – St. Helens Central – Wigan North Western
• Hourly stopping Liverpool Lime Street – Earlestown – Manchester Victoria
• Hourly stopping Liverpool Lime Street – Earlestown – Warrington Bank Quay
• Half hourly semi-fast Liverpool Lime Street – Warrington Central – Manchester Oxford Road
• Hourly Southport – Wigan Wallgate – Bolton – Manchester Piccadilly – Manchester Airport
• Hourly Southport – Wigan Wallgate – Atherton – Manchester Victoria
• Hourly Kirkby – Wigan Wallgate – Atherton – Manchester Victoria
• Roughly hourly service Ormskirk – Preston

TPE priorities:

1. A fast service every 15 minutes between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Victoria, deliverable with electrification and Northern Hub phase 2 in 2018.

2. Connecting the North’s core city regions: at least 2 trains per hour (tph) between each pair of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle. Needs increase to 2tph Liverpool – Sheffield and 2tph Liverpool – Newcastle. Appropriate service timings and quality to encourage inter-regional business travel by rail.

3. Improve LCR long distance connectivity with a new Express services Liverpool – Glasgow and Liverpool – Edinburgh.

4. Improve provision for interurban commuting, in both directions, between Liverpool – Liverpool South Parkway – Warrington – Manchester, which has to be handled by TPE (and EMT).

5. Earlier first trains, later last trains and improved evening and Sunday TPE (and EMT) services.

6. Reduce overcrowding by increased provision of rolling stock, especially seating capacity and luggage space, to ensure all passengers can expect a seat outside commuter peak hours.

7. Improve connections between services at interchange stations, including clearly publicised provisions for appropriate connecting services to be held and sensitive alternative arrangements for all passengers where connections have been broken, regardless of tickets held.

8. We would not expect a major increase in fares. Current fare levels are high relative to wages in the north.

9. Work with Merseytravel to develop SMART ticketing and accept Merseytravel’s ticket range on trains including Concessionary tickets.

Northern priorities:

1. New or refurbished electric units giving a step change in capacity and quality.

2. Pacer fleet replaced by refurbished diesel units cascaded from electrified lines.

3. Improved regional services from Liverpool to the rest of the north including two trains an hour to Preston.

4. Improved quality of service provided between Southport and Manchester.

5. Ensure peak requirement for capacity into Lime Street is addressed.

6. Improve connections between services at interchange stations, including clearly publicised provisions for appropriate connecting services to be held and sensitive alternative arrangements for all passengers where connections have been broken, regardless of tickets held.

7. Merseyside currently has good station facilities and we would like them to be maintained and built upon.

8. Merseyside has well-used stations which are currently staffed from first to last trains. We would want to see this developed and the offer to passengers improved through more flexible use of staff, such as the Mtogo facility on Merseyrail.

9. We would not expect a major increase in fares. Current fare levels are high relative to wages in the North.

10. Work with Merseytravel to develop SMART ticketing.

11. Support Merseytravel’s development of the rail network:
– Newton-le-Willows upgrade;
– potential new station at Carr Mill;
– improved park and ride facilities;
– reinstatement of the Halton Curve.