An OPSTA meeting in Croston – So are things looking brighter on the recently appalling (for cancellations) Ormskirk – Preston line

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Croston is a lovely largish village which is somewhat isolated in public transport terms with few if any local bus services. And those that do run seem to be permanently under threat.

But what Croston does though have is a railway station on the Ormskirk – Preston line, a line that in the early 1980s was under threat of closure itself and the reason the then OPTA (Ormskirk Preston Travellers Assn) campaign group was formed. That battle was won although there were some amusing reminiscences at the meeting held last Wednesday about politician Den Dover having to leave a campaign meeting because his stance was not seen to be one that helped the then beleaguered line.

Croston Station

But as readers of this blog site will know the performance of Northern Trains on the line was in the utterly appalling category during 2018, indeed it got so bad that it made the BBC national TV news. That the BBC got hold of the story was down to OPSTA (notice the change of name to include Southport) and some very determined Croston residents. Thankfully performance has very much improved in recent weeks but OPSTA continues to monitor the on-time performance of every train and Northern know it.

A guest at the meeting was Cllr. Keith Iddon the Transport portfolio holder on Lancashire County Council. The impression he gave to the meeting was one of optimism for the Ormskirk – Preston Line. He clearly backs the idea of Merseyrail trains running through Ormskirk on to Preston, indeed if anything he came over as more optimistic about that happening than Liam Robinson (the Chair of Merseytravel) did at a similar OPSTA public forum held in Southport a few months back.

Burscough Junction Station

We pressed Keith on the need to run trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line on Sundays whether or not the line is eventually taken over by Merseytravel – they would do that as a matter of course. He promised to take that request away and speak to Rail North about it. Rail North is in effect the northern branch of the Department for Transport.

If I recall correctly Cllr. Iddon referred to himself as someone from a truck driving background and thereby hangs an ever-present problem in Councils – their engineers are 99 times out of a hundred from a roads/highways background so they know little of the ways of the railway industry. Bearing in mind that many councils are responsible for transport in all its forms this must put them at a disadvantage, indeed they must miss opportunities because of the lack of expertise in railways. By the way, I’m not criticising Cllr. Iddon here, his working background is just as worthy as anyone else’s, I just use what he said to help illustrate a point that has long concerned me and which I witnessed when serving as a councillor on Sefton Borough Council.

Rufford Station

So are things on an upward curve for the Ormskirk – Preston Line? We can only hope so because so many passengers were left stranded day after day during Northern’s troubles, which are not at an end even now. Terrible communication issues with passengers, very poor rail replacement buses and a feeling that that Northern look upon the Rail North/DfT as their real customer who has to be satisfied rather than poor travelling public whom they let down day after day. The only way is upwards and please get the line into the Merseyrail system ASAP, it really is a no-brainer…..

Does the West of Lancashire Community Rail partnership serve a useful purpose?

I’ve been reading in RAIL magazine (issue 855 – June 20th – July 3rd) all about how CRP (Community Rail Partnerships) can deliver social benefits and many other things. And then I thought about the two lines covered by the West of Lancashire CRP and wondered what on earth does it do?

I found a link to it’s web site and you can see it here

www.communityraillancashire.co.uk/lines/west-of-lancashire/

It’s profile is low and frankly these two lines have many issues with cancelled trains, overcrowded trains (Southport Wigan Line), lack of Sunday services (Ormskirk – Preston Line) etc. etc. So how effective is the CRP at addressing these issues? Based on the fact that pretty much all the social media input and campaigning on the issues/problems raised above seems to emanate from SRTF (Southport Rail Transport Forum) and OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) I really do wonder what the CRP actually does and how it engages with the communities it serves?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Anyway, only the Ormskirk Preston Line is actually designated as a CRP line as defined by Government so the Southport – Wigan Line through West Lancs Borough can only be some form of informal CRP I guess.

I hear that Lancashire County Council are at best lukewarm over the potential to reopen the old station at Midge Hall on the Ormskirk – Preston Line despite the district council for the area being keen to press on with the reopening associated with major house building going on not so far away from the old station. Is this not the kind of project the CRP should be up and running with to develop the line?

And just what has the CRP done to address the lack of Sunday trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line? This has been a local transport issue needing to be resolved for a long time now, particularly with the huge number of students in and around Ormskirk at Edge Hill University.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Then we look at the loss of virtually all the trains on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line into Manchester Piccadilly Station, the vast majority of which now terminate at Manchester Victoria to the inconvenience of many Southport and West Lancs rail users. Just how has the CRP tried to influence this pressing issue?

Also, the Southport line was until recent times on the list to be electrified all be that some vague number of years down the line – no pun intended. The line has old trains which are run in an overcrowded way and with unreliability being the unfortunate watchword. And this well predates the May 2018 timetable meltdown by many years.

What I’m getting at here is that from my perspective the CRP is hardly high profile on any of these issues and the voluntary sector in the form of SRTF and OPSTA have seemingly had to take the lead in battling with our failed railway industry.

So I can I ask again what purpose does the West of Lancashire CRP serve?

If Northern can’t run trains then West Coast can!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tfD44iwqs4&t=34s

The video is on You Tube – see link above

So as the Northern Trains franchise fails in a shambolic way just look what is happening on the Lakes Line (Oxenholme to Windermere) where locals have taken things into their own hands and embarrassed the railway industry and Department for Transport wholesale.

Reminds me a bit of the Ealing Comedy Titfield Thunderbolt film

Northern Trains – It just gets worse! –

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound. The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Northern has stated unequivocally there will be no Sunday services during June and July on the Ormskirk – Preston Line! It has been only a couple of weeks since we were told that Sunday running trains (unusual for this particular line) would be put on to help combat the closure of Liverpool Lime Street Station! My previous posting refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/05/27/summer-sunday-service-schedule-preston-ormskirk-line/

The Weekday (Monday-Fridays) trains on the same line are often being replaced by buses presently. An Optimistic scenario is that trains may be back all day from Monday 18th or that it might be a staged return to trains. However, the Route Director is saying the emergency timetable for Ormskirk – Preston will remain in place until end of July unless they complete driver training sooner. Saturdays: it appears to be trains running all day.

And the business leaders of Northern still have jobs it seems, whatever next.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting although the opinions expressed are my own.

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

Summer Sunday Service Schedule Preston – Ormskirk Line!!!

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound. The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Well it’s because of railway engineering work and the part closure of Liverpool Lime Street Station throughout the summer but hey at least it’s a service on the Ormskirk – Preston Line on a Sunday.

Of course the caveat must be, are Northern capable of delivering the service based on their inability to deliver a regular service on many of their lines at presently?

The service will operate every Sunday from June 3rd up to and including July 29th.

You will find full times for journeys up to July 8th through online travel enquiries at Northern, National Rail etc. There will be 6 services each way similar to last October, see below.

Please check before you travel.

OPSTA (Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers Association) will be conducting passenger counts and possibly a survey or two.

Sunday Preston departures

1042

1213

1412

1534

1711

1834

Sunday Ormskirk departures

1135

1251

1452

1635

1752

1935

What will it take for Government to realise that folks want to travel by train on a Sunday all the time, year in year out? They don’t close Motorways on a Sunday!

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Northern trains meet