Northern Rail – Crisis talks with DfT?

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Railnews has the story on its website – see link below:-

railnews.mobi/news/2018/11/05-northern-in-crisis-talks-over.html

Rumours that Northern has been suffering financially have been around for a while but then again that’s surely no surprise to anyone based on their well-documented troubles.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum have been lobbying anyone who will listen about the poor levels of service on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport-Wigan-Manchester Lines for a long time now, indeed the troubles as I have often said well predate the May 2018 timetable meltdown.

But of course, Northern’s problems are far, far wider than the two local lines that I am reasonably well informed about and I have been impressed with the campaigning over these troubles by MP’s Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and Lisa Nandy (Wigan).

I appreciate that not all of Northern’s troubles are of their own making and that their franchise has been hugely impacted on in a negative way by Network Rail’s delayed electrification projects and by the related stalled cascading of rolling stock. However, the trouble is not only the financial impact on Northern, who seem to have significant industrial relations problems with their own staff but on the confidence that the travelling public has in them.

Surely ending this franchise would be best all round, would it not?

Merseyrail – That new train fleet in more detail

The new Stadler trains (ordered by Merseytravel the Transport Committee of Liverpool City Region) which will be coming to Merseyrail in early 2020 look to be innovative and potentially class leading.

Here’s some photos from a mock-up of a Stadler train carriage so you can see how very different the new trains will look from the present rather elderly (40 years old in fact) British Rail built 507 and 508 trains:-

And you can see the mock up yourself too. Here’s where and how:-

The mock-up will be on display at the following times:

· Pacific Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1LJ: 1-14 October, Mon-Sun 8.00 to 17.30, Tues 8.00-19.30

· Liverpool Lime Street, L1 1JD: 5-18 November, Mon-Sun 7.00 to 18.30

The new trains are going to be fitted with battery packs so that they will be able to travel beyond the present electrified 3rd rail network. This brings all kinds of possibilities in terms of expanding the reach of Merseyrail to places like Burscough, Preston, Skelmersdale etc. without the need for costly electrification. Such opportunities are clearly most welcome and OPSTA* will be looking to pursue them at every turn.

With thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting.

*OPSTA – Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association

Ormskirk – Preston Trains an update on a line that’s struggled to deliver decent service levels for a very long time now

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.

Along with many railway routes across the Northern Rail franchise the Ormskirk – Preston Line has suffered some very poor levels of performance for a long time now. Indeed, whilst you may be forgiven for thinking the melt-down that is Northern Rail started when the May 2018 was brought in the reality is that the rot set in well before that on this line. Cancellations and the dreaded rail replacement buses have been the norm for much longer than that sadly.

OPSTA*, the local volunteer rail campaign group, have been trying to hold Northern Rail’s feet to the fire so to speak in an attempt to push them to address all the many problems that have beset the line and here is the latest from them:-

They have been pressing Northern on why the service has been so abysmal in recent weeks and what steps they are taking to improve.

In response Northern stated that in the last 4 weeks the majority of cancellations were down to infrastructure failure** with 40% attributable to unavailability of traincrew or a train unit. Northern has claimed actions are being taken to bring about an improved service.

From Monday (17th) a new traincrew roster/link comes into effect and this has been designed to optimise performance and minimise all traincrew related cancellations for all Lancashire routes. We will of course be monitoring closely as ever.

OPSTA are looking for response and feedback on other matters raised with Northern but one thing seems clear, the final bus replacement service (11.26 Preston departure) may not be reverted to train before December.

OPSTA will continue to pursue the issues and concerns over replacement bus services, last minute cancellations and lack of revenue protection/ticket selling.

With thanks to Alan for the lead to this posting

* Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association is a rail campaign group made up of volunteers who are dedicated to improved train services on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan – Manchester lines operated by Northern Rail

** for ‘infrastructure failure’ read Network Rail as they are responsible for the track, signaling etc. on which the trains run. The response would seem to indicate that Northern feel that the majority of problems are out of their control.

Transport For the North (TFN) make bold statements on rail but will anything much actually happen?

A Northern Class 158 DMU at York Station

The article is on Transport for the North’s web site – see link below:-

transportforthenorth.com/transport-north-board-takes-decisive-action-future-norths-railways/

A Transpennie Express Class 185 DMU leaving Liverpool Lime Street Station

And why do I continue to hold a skeptical line? Keolis have recently announced that the Liverpool – Chester via Frodsham service, due to start in December, will not now appear until May 2019. This is due, I understand, to “rolling stock availability issues”. Keolis take over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales (which will run this new service) next month.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting

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?

Burscough – Merseyside Transport Trust Open Day

I went along to the Trust’s Open Day last Sunday to both have a look and to help out on the OPSTA stall at the event. Here are a few photos of the vehicles on display:-

Nice to meet up with some old friends there even though I’m not really into old buses and cars being a railway enthusiast. I did get to see the latest works on the former Merseyrail Class 502 EMU though and more about that in a separate posting.

The first photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/