Skem’s reconnection to national rail network hits buffers

The old Skelmersdale Station – now long gone in the name of 1960’s progress!

Well, it’s been a long time coming and I guess quite a bit of cash must have been spent (in person-hours particularly) in the planning but Government has probably unsurprisingly run for the hills over the cost of reconnecting Skelmersdale to the national rail network. The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-62087680

I say unsurprisingly as folk I know who are knowledgeable of Lancashire’s politics and indeed its railways have been indicating such an outcome pretty much ever since this major project, with its eye-watering costs, was first proposed. Here’s a link back to an earlier posting of mine (from 2015) on the matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/06/11/skelmersdale-the-detail-of-the-skem-rail-link-project/

Of course, the new and 2nd Merseyrail station for Kirkby at Headbolt Lane did get the go-ahead (plus funding) and it is actually being built right now.

When you consider that this latest knock-back for the North West comes on top of the HS2 Goulbourne link being axed and the reconnection of Burscough Curves being blocked yet again it makes the ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda look as worthless as was the Northern Powerhouse, or Poorhouse as my old chum, Jim Ford, accurately once labelled it.

Cummings and Northern Goings On

It all sounded so easy when the Tories announced they were going to level up so that ‘The North’ would no longer be at a disadvantage to the south. So far not much levelling up has happened but then again we are living through a badly handled (by the Tories) health crisis/pandemic so they do have some excuse for the lack of anything tangible happening. However, that excuse won’t wash for long.

The other problem is that Johnson’s government seems incapable of handing just about anything well or even for that matter adequately. On that basis there can’t be much confidence that they’ll fix the north/south investment imbalance even when they do actually start doing as opposed to just talking about it.

Jim Hancock has an interesting take on all this. Please have a look what he has to say via this link:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim, as often is the case, gets what’s going on when many other commentators flounder. Not only that but he’s capable of putting it all down in understandable words; he’s part of a dying breed in journalism sadly.

I agree with Jim about Prescott and his wish to bring in regional governance which somewhat fell apart in English terms. I’m no fan of City Region Mayors, I never have been. What with the half-hearted devolution packages handed down when they were foisted upon us and the majority of them not really changing much at all I’d rather be shut of them in favour of proper regional governance via elected assemblies.

Prescott in government was a chap of typical old fashioned Labour hang-ups. On the one hand he had what all but amounted to an approach to this subject that Liberals had been articulating for generations. However, he was also one not to work across political boundaries because all he’d been taught in the insular Labour movement was against working with others who may hold similar views. I guess he was ‘our way or no way’ a view which has bedevilled Labour and stood it firmly against truly progressive politics for generations. Of course he lost his internal battle in the Labour Party over regionalism and having not built any bridges outside of that party his ideas sadly floundered.

I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how Labour can attack others who broadly agree with a policy they are trying to take forward because those others are not 100% backing of the Labour view. Labour has to build coalitions within the party but they won’t build them outside of it and Prescott lost regionalism because of that flawed attitude.

Northern Powerhouse Rail and thoughts about the future of northern towns

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/manchester-26-minutes-london-90-17781826

That we northerners are pretty much all sceptics about investment in the north is probably a given, after all we’ve seen precious little of it for generations and through many governments. So it’s really no surprise when you hear Northern Poorhouse as opposed to the ‘correct’ Powerhouse; folks just don’t trust governments to deliver sustained investment in the north other than a light sprinkling of cash every now and then. Trouble is when government does send sixpence up the M6 some northern political leader gets far too over excited about it and says all kinds of daft over the top things which end up all but justifying the crumbs off the south eastern table of plenty.

Now don’t get me wrong I really do want to see significant sustained investment in the north, although I do fear that concentrating in and on the major cities is a big mistake as towns around the north suffer the greatest problems. The real danger of the present ‘City Region’ concept is that it will suck life out of towns surrounding major cities and concentrate it in major cities and I fear that this is process is already happening ‘up north’. Stripping civil service jobs out of Bootle and putting them in central Liverpool comes to mind.

The reality could end up being a Northern Powerhouse for the cities and Northern Poorhouse for the towns!

Note – The photo at the head of this posting is of a Northern Franchise Class 150 DMU carrying livery in support of Northern Powerhouse Rail. It was seen at Chester Station.

Liverpool’s Mayor quits Northern Poorhouse

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-46499143

Well, what can I say other than I have never been taken in by the Northern Powerhouse, referred to as Northern Poorhouse by those of us who have always thought it has been nothing more than political spin. So my query is why’s it taken you so long to realise this Joe?

If the appalling rail service offered across the north by Northern Assist has not been enough to show that the Northern Powerhouse is a waste of space, in terms of influencing decisive outcomes, I don’t know what is.

With thanks to Keith Page for the lead to this posting

Travelling in the north is no fun what so ever!

If only our northern Motorways were all free flowing as the M58 was when this shot was taken.

I’ve commented often about the parlous state of our railways here up north. Probably with the exception of Merseyrail they are a right old mess, but what about our roads?

If my two recent experiences on Motorways across the north is anything to go by they are probably in a worse state than our railways and that takes some believing.

Lydiate to Chesterfield via the M62 and M1 last Sunday – 5 hours! OK a couple of stops along the way for about 30 mins in total but I used to be able to that journey in 3hrs easily with a similar stop off.

Chesterfield to Lydiate via M1 (no forget that) Buxton, Knutsford, M6, M62, M57 – also 5 hours! This time with about 50 mins stopping.

On the way there we sat, I kid you not, for 2hrs and 20mins between Rochdale and Saddleworth going nowhere with the Motorway supposedly closed. Then it cleared and no one had any idea what it had all been about.

On the way back the M1 was backed up from Junction 30 northwards so we had to double back a couple of junctions to go across country through the Peak District.

And to think four and half hours or so to do just around 100 miles. If we continue to travel like this we will grind our economy to a halt even without the ‘help’ of Brexit! Very definitely it’s Northern Poorhouse not Northern Powerhouse:-(((

Transport For the North (TFN) make bold statements on rail but will anything much actually happen?

A Northern Class 158 DMU at York Station

The article is on Transport for the North’s web site – see link below:-

transportforthenorth.com/transport-north-board-takes-decisive-action-future-norths-railways/

A Transpennie Express Class 185 DMU leaving Liverpool Lime Street Station

And why do I continue to hold a skeptical line? Keolis have recently announced that the Liverpool – Chester via Frodsham service, due to start in December, will not now appear until May 2019. This is due, I understand, to “rolling stock availability issues”. Keolis take over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales (which will run this new service) next month.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting