Rolling back Beeching half a mile at a time

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Some time ago government made a high profile bid for the railway enthusiast/environmental vote by saying they were putting up money to reinstate the railway cut-backs of the 1960’s Beeching era. It was all good stuff but when you have an idea how much a railway costs to reinstate then the amount of money on offer was to say the least rather insignificant whereas the expectations raised have been very significant. The amount on offer was (and I think still is) £500m and some experts think that’s only enough to reinstate around 25 miles of track in total!

Here’s a link to the original press coverage via the Independent’s website:-

www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/fleetwood-rail-cuts-beeching-grant-shapps-borders-railway-west-coast-a9304686.html

And here’s the list of projects bidding for the money!:-

assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/969125/restoring-your-railway-all-bids.csv/preview

Clearly Pandora’s Box has been opened and unless vastly more money is put into this pot there’s going to be some angry and potentially feeling misled people about. Even if you say two thirds of the projects won’t make the cut the rest will cost many billions of £’s.

Locally, there are two projects on the long list of bidders – reconnecting the Burscough Curves (which used to connect the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk Preston lines at Burscough) and the reopening of Midge Hall Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line. As a member of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) I’m reasonably informed about both bids as they’ve been campaigned for over many, many years. The Burscough Curves project did not make the 1st round approval process to be progressed via this particular funding route. In effect a revised bid is required. The Midge Hall Station project may see the light of day via planning gain money associated with a large housing development close to it, although that’s been talked about for ages too.

So with expectations being so high and very significant efforts being made with regard to each bid how will the potentially many let-downs be handled?

My thanks to Jonathan Cadwallader for the lead to this posting

Aughton – A railway over 50+ years, with a little help from my friends

I often cycle along Sandy Lane/Mickering Lane in Aughton on my daily rides and as I peddle under its railway bridge I sometimes wonder about the days before the Liverpool – Preston rail corridor was severed at Ormskirk.

And then out of the blue I was recently offered some old railway photos by the Maghull family of a Mr Reston who used to work for British Railways and who had sadly passed on. As a lifelong railway enthusiast I was of course delighted to accept the offer and I’ve been working my way through them. Most of the locations, across northern England & Scotland, are noted but some are not and I came across 3 1960’s black and white shots which at first glance looked to have been taken at the Butchers Lane railway bridge in Aughton. Closer examination however proved this thought to be wrong.

I needed help so I put the photos on the Mersey Railways Facebook Group and I asked fellow Committee members of OSPTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) for such help. After a suggestion that the photo could have been taken in Burscough it was finally narrowed down to the Sandy Lane/Mickering Lane railway bridge just a little further north from my own original thought of Butchers Lane. It was great to see fellow railway enthusiasts pitching in to help me out and the location was cracked by them.

So here are the 3 photos:-

Two southbound trains (heading towards Liverpool) and one northbound (heading towards Ormskirk) but what’s really amazing about the information provided is that it’s not just the location which was identified. One helper from the Mersey Railways FB Group was actually able to pin point an exact train from 1965. It’s one of the southbound trains headed by the diesel locomotive. I’m told that it’s a returning empty stock for the 1965 Grand National (a special) at Mickering Lane, the first bridge south of Town Green. The loco is No.D210 ‘Empress of Britain’ with the stock of 1X66, a Birmingham excursion. It’s returning to Aintree from servicing at Lostock Hall shed. Also, that the buffer stops in the shot were the end of the siding that ran behind Town Green signal box and the signal is Town Green outer home. I’m truly taken aback by the detail of this information and delighted too.

And just to bring things up to date here’s a couple of shots taken by me around 2.20pm on 3rd December, yesterday, from roughly the same position as the three 1965 photo were taken:-

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Lancashire Railways 1964-1968 (Liverpool – Southport – Ormskirk – Burscough – Wigan)

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ3SxCwCcIQ

I can’t recall whether I’ve posted about this particular You Tube video before (posted by Michael Dawson – see link above) or not but it is so significant in documenting the railways around Merseyside and West Lancashire in the mid 1960’s through to the end of steam that it is well worth sharing.

It covers through trains from Liverpool Exchange to Scotland via Ormskirk, the now long gone and much missed Southport – Preston Line, the fabled Burscough Curves which OPSTA are trying to get reopened and many other delightful railway scenes.

And I’m also taking the opportunity to add in more photos by Anthony Graham, which he has kindly given me permission to use, to further illustrate in a similar timeline some of the lines the video:-

Hall Road Station 1968 with a Liverpool Lime Street to Southport Class 108 DMU in the station.

Hesketh Park Signal Box May 1968

Ormskirk Station Signal Box 1968 May

Rufford 1970 2nd May, the final Saturday 0900 Liverpool Exchange-Glasgow Central service being cautioned owing to a block failure between Rufford and Midge Hall.

Kirkdale Station 1968 looking north east

I’m sure this posting will bring back memories for many folk looking at it. How lucky we are that our railway past has been so well documented on film/video and by photographers.

Class 769 driver training on Southport – Wigan line

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line – in 2014.

I’m indebted to Flickr user British Rail 1980s and1990’s for permission to use the photo contained in the link below to this blog posting:-

www.flickr.com/photos/britishrail1980sand1990s/49529872211

As this blog site and many, many other sources have commented on for far too long now the standard of service, the short forming of trains, cancellations etc. etc. on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line has sadly become a part of every passengers life. But there has to be hope and the testing of bi-mode Class 769’s on the line may well be a part of that hope.

I know that OPSTA will be interested in this development as they have been championing this long neglected line, together with the Ormskirk – Preston line of course, for many years indeed.

And a nostalgic reminder of the line in happier times when the Burscough Curves were still in use – photo credit Phil Hughes:-

OPSTA keeps on pressing for the curves to be reopened and is it just possible that the powers that be could be starting to take notice? I hope so but sadly there’s been far too many false dawns over the past 30 years or more to get too optimistic. However, one day Southport and Preston will again be connected by rail I sure, I just hope I see it happen.

My thanks to Kevin Duggan for the lead to this posting

HS2 – It was always going to get the green light

Class 66 Diesel Locos at Seaforth Container Terminal

I’ve been amused by all the chatter about the potential for government to stop HS2 in its tracks when the reality was they were never going to do that.

Yes I know, they held a review of it and made a lot of noise about cost but that was to keep the issue off the political agenda surrounding the General Election. The Tories wanted to be seen to have a foot in the camp of those who oppose HS2. You could say it was cynical political manipulation as that’s what I call it.

HS2 and the associated new line from Liverpool across the north are vital if we want decent passenger and freight carrying railways with capacity because there’s precious little capacity left in the present rail network.

Take Liverpool and it’s expanding port. One of the big issues is that there’s no capacity to get freight to and from that port and it’s because of pretty much the same reason that passenger services east of Liverpool are in a mess. There’s no capacity for the number of trains needed to be run, simple as that.

So do I celebrate High Speed Rail and the associated east west line across the north? Yes I do because it’s a common sense decision that had to be made. My only reservation in this daft process was that government may still be in Brexit mode i.e. doing things without taking account of facts, but maybe they’ve got enough of promoting fantasy land on their plate for now so they gave in to the experts who they studiously ignored over Brexit.

Now we need investment in other lines in the north such as:-

* Ormskirk – Preston:- just hand it over to Merseyrail so they can run trains right through to Preston
* Southport – Wigan- Manchester:- Get it back to being a decent reliable service as it was until the 1960’s
* Burscough Curves:- Reinstate them so there can be trains between Southport and Preston and Ormskirk and Southport

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Ormskirk – Preston Line – Turn it over to Merseyrail

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet.

As the painful (for passengers) demise of Northern Rail has all but been announced by Government is it not time to take the opportunity to take one of the UK’s most poorly operated lines out of the Northern Franchise and hand it to a rail operator which regularly tops the league table for reliability and performance – Merseyrail.

Let’s look at the advantages of doing that:-

* Gaining reliable trains on a line which has suffered so much from unreliable trains in recent years
* Being able to travel from Liverpool to Preston without having to change trains in Ormskirk
* Get the frequency of trains up from just 1 per hour north of Ormskirk (when they actually run) and bring in much needed Sunday services too

Disadvantages:-

* Er I can’t think of any
* Er I can’t think of any
* Er I can’t think of any

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Let’s stop mucking about and do the most sensible and logical thing to bring back the Liverpool – Preston rail corridor as one whole operation rather than having Ormskirk as the muddle in the middle. Everyone would win from such a move