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.
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!