Northern Rail’s meltdown and its impact on Merseyside and beyond

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/mersey-commuters-demand-more-government-14813870

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its web site – see link above

Yes we all know how badly the Northern Rail meltdown has affected negatively the lives of train users across the north of England but it’s worth saying yet again that the troubles actually predate the now infamous May timetable changes. Users of the Ormskirk – Preston route were seeing far too many cancellations before May and Southport – Manchester travellers were suffering often overcrowded and unreliable trains. May’s timetable changes just made it all much worse.

Southport – Manchester trains now virtually all go into at Manchester Victoria Station whereas before they were split between Victoria and Piccadilly. The loss of trains into Piccadilly is a huge issue to those using this line who work in the business area around Piccadilly.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy made a big fuss in House of Commons the other day as her frustration boiled over at the utter mess of train services on her local line – The Southport to Manchester Line. Lib Dem MP Tim Farron has launched a petition to try to get Northern sacked as the train operating company on his Lakes Line from Oxenholme to Windermere, indeed working with local residents he has brought in a heritage railway company to run the trains that Northern can’t/won’t run.

Northern Fail – Could they less guilty than we thought?

www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/18/northern-trains-operator-asked-for-timetable-changes-to-be-delayed?CMP=share_btn_link

The Guardian has the report on its web site – see link above

So according to this report Northern say they tried to get the latest timetable changes put back but were refused by Network Rail and others in rail industry. If true this shines a clear light on what was going on prior to the meltdown when the timetable changes were brought in in May. Makes you wonder about the decision making process in the rail industry if they can seemingly forge ahead with something they collectively have been told won’t work!

With thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting.

Better Days Ahead – Well there has to be surely

www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMr3_5bO8fU

Above is a link to a most wonderful tune by jazz guitarist Norman Brown.

Hey things are more than a bit grim at present. The NHS is falling apart at the seams, the police are so under funded they struggle to protect us from crime, our schools are at breaking point with budget cuts, Northern would rather run buses than trains, Government is all at sea and their Official Opposition doesn’t seem to know how to oppose them. Trump keeps going bonkers, global warming is going to create a living hell for future generations and Brexit is going to see job losses, an economic downturn (yes we can keep going down!), less environmental protections…………. But you get my drift, as a progressive times have never been so tough – Thatcherism and Reaganomics were grim but we are are potentially on the road to far far worse.

So what do you do in the face of all this misery? You realise that there will be better days ahead as the electorate are sure to slam the brakes on whose they put in power and U-turn the political juggernaut away from the march towards fascism back to a progressive way forward. Well we’ve got to hope so because staying on the course the UK is presently on means a very poor outcome for us all but for the poor it does not bear thinking about!

But until May is put out of her misery and until Corbyn learns to oppose try listening to this tune by Norman Brown entitled Better Days Ahead, it will lift your weary soul…..

Northern and Grayling – An utter shambles – Heads need to roll!

If you thought our appalling train services run by Northern could not get any worse well you’re wrong because they are doing as failing becomes utter shambles!

This is Ormskirk Station with a train from Preston just arriving

Locally, the recently announced opening of the Ormskirk – Preston Line on a Sunday throughout the summer, due to the closure of Liverpool Lime Street, has been turned on its head as Northern have now said there will not be any trains running this Sunday – 10th June. What’s more those in the know seem to think that the promised Sunday service could well be a non-runner for more Sundays than just this coming one. Check before you travel on any Northern train as none of their services can be relied upon these days.

A little further afield South Lakes MP Tim Farron got an assurance earlier this week from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in Parliament that he would not support an extension of the two weeks worth of cancelled trains on the Lakes Line to Windermere only for a few days later it to be announced that the cancellations were being extended!!!

It really is time for heads to roll in the railway industry for this utter shambles and Grayling should resign in shame himself for overseeing this mess and chaos. Northern Powerhouse Rail my foot it’s Northern Poorhouse Rail at the very best. We are being treated like second class citizens up north.

And as for the outgoing head of Network Rail getting a CBE! – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44423311

Northern Rail – Just why are their services struggling to deliver and who’s going to fix things?

I guess many of passengers using Northern Rail in recent times will have asked themselves this question. Cancelled trains due to a lack of rolling stock and or drivers/guards seem to be an everyday occurrence nowadays and of course, as with Merseyrail, Northern are deeply into industrial action with rail union RMT over loss of train guards on new rolling stock.

I’m told that locally cancelled trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line are now a common occurrence, but it’s clear that Northern’s problems extend over the whole franchise area and it must be the case that Arriva, who own the Northern Rail franchise, are under pressure.

That northern MP’s are getting to the end of their tether with Northern is to be expected as their constituents fill the MP’s post bags with stories of poor performance. That frustration amongst northern MP’s leads to this (see link below):-

www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1240

And of course we have seen that the services on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line are soon to go into Manchester Victoria Station, with few going to Manchester Piccadilly and none to Manchester Airport anymore.

All in all it seems that Northern’s passengers have a lot to be unhappy about but how are the problems going to get fixed?

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:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/01/ormskirk-end-of-the-line-well-end-of-two-lines-actually/

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:-

www.opsta.btck.co.uk/