Southport – Wigan – Manchester rail services – Farron hears the case for Southport & West Lancs getting a better deal

Tim Farron & David Pullin at Southport Station April 2016

Nice to see that Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron is being briefed on the much needed upgrade of rail services to and from Southport to the east of the Town and through West Lancashire. In the photo above Southport resident and campaigner David Pullin is bending Tim’s ear.

And Southport Cambridge Ward Cllr. Pat Keith was also on hand to make sure Tim understood why the rail line to the east of Southport is so important to people travelling to Manchester Piccadilly Station.

Tim Farron and Cllr. Pat Keith

Tim, of course, has the promised electrification of the Windermere Branch under his belt, that he led the campaign for, even though Network Rail seem to be trying hard to kick the implementation of it as far as possible into the long grass.

Northern rail franchise – Doubts over Arriva winning it but good news for local rail services

I could hardly say that a cheered when I heard that Arriva had won the Northern rail franchise today as I immediately thought back to them running Merseyrail some years ago and my recollection is that they did not cover themselves in glory back then.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Northern Rail the present operator of the Northern rail franchise has lost the contract to operate it to Arriva Trains. This is a Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

Of course they are also our major local bus operator and again I groan when I think about them. Loss of the 311 bus recently comes to mind! Also, a concern I picked up only last Monday, when for reasons unknown, they were seemingly not running the 310 or 300 out of Liverpool for the evening rush hour. I heard some angry words about this from a regular Arriva user.

So, sorry Department for Transport we are not jumping for joy but we do hope that Arriva’s second attempt at running a rail franchise in northern England will be better than their first go.

But the good news is that there are to be improvements in some local rail services as part of the new franchise such as:-

* An hourly service on Ormskirk to Preston line, which will mean a significant increase up to 17 trains a day. But the need for a Sunday service on this line is not in the initial announcements so it looks like it may well have been ignored. If so this will be bad news for Edge Hill University and its students.

* One train per hour Southport – Manchester Victoria – Leeds and/or Bradford. But what of the Southport services to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport? More information needed here.

The dates for the improved services are not yet known.

So at face value a mixed bad of good and not so good things with many questions yet to be answered.

Of course credit for campaigning on these issues goes to the Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA and John Pugh MP because they have raised the profile of rail transport issues from Southport and through West Lancs. Without their efforts no improvements would have been forthcoming at all in my view.

And another thing, by way of a gripe. In my latter days of being a Sefton Councillor I had to batter away at Merseytravel to get them to put the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line into the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy as it was not even mentioned in their original draft. Working with others we got them to include it in the final draft so it is somewhat ironic that Merseytravel now seems so pleased about the services out of Southport, on this very line, being down to be improved!

John Pugh MP & Southport Manchester Trains

mail.google.com

Click on the Champion newspaper article to enlarge it

John Pugh MP for Southport

Well said John, this is of course a vital part of giving Southport a healthy economic future. Without a quality rail connection to the east (to Wigan & Manchester) and indeed the north of the Town (to Preston) to match the one to the south Southport can’t develop to its true potential.

www.johnpughmp.com/mp_determined_to_keep_southport_rail_upgrades_on_track

Ormskirk/Preston Railway Line – ‘A lightly used rural line!’

A topic I have commented on often in the past but am drawn to again because I have been reading a report to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority dated 16th April.

Agenda item 10, item 3.7 points out that low priority for electrification lines, such as Ormskirk Preston, are ‘lightly used rural lines’.

End of the line from Liverpool - Ormskirk Station. Beyond the buffers is the line from Ormskirk to Preston which is virtually designed to be a lightly used rural line!

End of the line from Liverpool – Ormskirk Station. Beyond the buffers is the line from Ormskirk to Preston which is designed to be a lightly used rural line!

Well yes, but that’s because it is a rubbish infrequent service with no Sunday trains at all. What’s more it is deliberately not connected to the Liverpool Ormskirk service meaning folk have to change trains at Ormskirk. It would be very different if it was a through Liverpool – Preston service. Do the powers that be never think outside the box? Give me strength!

It would have been nice to read that our local rulers were making it clear that they had ambitions to once again make it a through Liverpool – Preston service. Lack of vision? Lack of ambition? Too far away from Liverpool for anyone to be bothered?

OPSTA – Rail User Express article

Readers of this blog will know that I am a big supporter of our railways and in particular the campaigning activities of OPSTA our local rail lobbying group for Southport and West Lancashire. Below is an article from Rail User Express about the recent activities of OPSTA:-

opsta logo new

Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – operator continuing with improvements

OPSTA has now been involved in meetings with all three of shortlisted bidders for the Northern franchise. There are only about 14 months left to the end of the current franchise, so OPSTA finds it encouraging that Northern continues to progress initiatives and investment commitments, adding “we should see customer information systems installed at a number of our stations this year.” Also welcome is the statement that the operator will facilitate user group discussions on timetabling. A petition calling for the retention of the ticket office at Burscough Bridge has been sent to Lancashire County Council, but OPSTA fears that the Council has already made up its mind to close the facility.

The group thinks that there is much untapped demand for the Ormskirk-Preston line, currently operated by a single-car unit. They plan to conduct another full passenger count this Spring, and meanwhile the committee welcomes feedback from members using the service. Worryingly, some users have recently reported a major drop off in fare collection, and OPSTA has brought this to the operator’s attention. Some of the passengers participating in OPSTA’s recent travel surveys suggested that Twitter would be an effective way of getting the group’s message out to a wider audience. Consequently anyone can now “follow” the group on @opsta15.

Note:- OPSTA’s logo (above) shows the Southport – Wigan line (in red), the Ormskirk – Preston line (in blue) and the curved green lines represent the missing connecting lines at Burscough. The lines were taken out in the Beeching era and need to be reinstated so that Southport – Preston and Ormskirk – Southport trains can run again.