How Preston’s transport plan could benefit Southport & the Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Line

The graphic above*, which you will need to click on to enlarge for reading, is an extract from the recently published Preston City Transport Plan. It’s an important document because it discusses much needed transport, in this case rail, improvements to the south and west of Preston.

If you look closely the document is promoting the re-connection of the Burscough North Curve so that trains can once again travel between Preston and Southport. This is what the curves looked like when they were in place in the 1960’s:-

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

OPSTA, the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travelers Association has been promoting the re-connection of the Burscough Curves since the 1980’s and they have been the driving force behind improving the Ormskirk – Preston Line and the reopening of Midge Hall Station. But it’s been an uphill struggle with Lancashire County Council (the Transport Authority) seeming being at best lukewarm about the line the present train operator (Northern) struggling to deliver the present basic service reliably.

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Northern trains meet.

Another way forward is for Merseyrail to run trains all the way from Liverpool Central to Preston via the removal of the buffer stops at Ormskirk and other signaling/track improvements. To me this has always been the most sensible solution to bring the Ormskirk – Preston Line up to its true potential, together of course with the introduction of Southport – Preston trains. The fact that some of Merseyrail’s soon to arrive Class 777 Stadler rolling stock will now have battery operation facility (this had been in doubt previously) then them operating on the line without the need for expensive electrification equipment opens up real opportunities.

A mock-up of a Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Graphic Notes:-
* ‘P’ is Preston – Numbers 2, 3 & 6 are points along the Ormskirk – Preston Railway Line – 2 is the proposed new Coote Lane Station – 3 being the proposed reopening of Midge Hall Station and 6 is where the connecting Burscough Curves are situated i.e. where the Ormsirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines cross each other.

Nodding Donkeys – The Pacer, a bus on railway wheels, is still sadly with us

A Pacer at Preston Station

I came across the You Tube video (see link below) pretty much by chance even though it’s on a matter I have blogged about a number of times before i.e. the infamous ‘Nodding Donkeys’ of the railway world made from bus bodies and freight van trucks. However Southport rail campaigner Eric Woodcock is on the video explaining in straight forward terms how the much derided Pacer trains came about. It’s an interesting watch……

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucA5xIgjZBc

Inside a down at heel Pacer on the Ormskirk Preston Line

My good friend and former MP for Southport John Pugh campaigned to rid us of these terrible trains and here’s a link back to his work on the matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/07/pacers-are-thankfully-on-their-last-legs-or-is-that-wheels/

Northern on the rocks and not before time in my view

‘The government is considering whether the management of the North of England’s largest rail commuter service should be taken into public hands’ – BBC website

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50067806

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Liverpool City Region comes under pressure to take back control of buses

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-city-region-urged-follow-17059083

This is a welcome move by Lib Dem members on Wirral Council as their initiative will, if supported, have a beneficial effect on bus services across the Liverpool City Region (LCR).

I recall hearing Merseytravel Chairperson, Cllr. Liam Robinson, talk about such a move at an OPSTA meeting in Southport in November 2018. However, my concern then, as it has been for many a year, was that regaining local control over buses was becoming a matter oft talked about rather than actually being energetically taken forward. My note from the Southport meeting said this – Cllr. Robinson presented his vision of how bus services could be improved in the Liverpool City Region (beyond the present Bus Alliance with Arriva and Stagecoach)

Good luck to Wirral Lib Dems in their attempt to push LCR/Merseytravel to deliver on this sooner rather than later. Righting the wrongs of the Thatcher’s appalling 1980’s Bus Deregulation Act, which plunged all local bus services (except for those in London) into a further spiral of decline has been a long time coming – like some local bus services!

Southport – Wigan – Manchester trains – 5 days with no trains running due to bridge replacement

Passengers are being warned about a five-day closure of the railway in November to renew a bridge over the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

The bridge in Burscough will be completely replaced as part of the Great North Rail Project. In order to carry out the major work no trains will run between Southport or Parbold stations from Saturday 16 until Wednesday 20 November.

To allow engineers to carry out the work, there will also be a seven day closure of the canal tow path beneath the bridge from Friday 15 November.

During the closure, work will also be undertaken to upgrade over 400m of track drainage at Hoscar Lane station, as well as replacing sleepers and sections of rail in the Southport station area.

Passengers are being advised that bus replacement services will operate during the closure.

To inform passengers about changes to train services, posters will be displayed at all affected stations. Information hand out’s to passengers travelling during the morning peak (week commencing 14 October) will also take place I understand.

Passengers are being advised to allow extra time for their journeys and to check before they travel at www.nationalrail.co.uk

My thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting

Southport – Wigan – Manchester Trains – Still running way below par

A Southport bound train running into Wigan Wallgate Station – April 2019

That the service on this important rail route has been below standard for far too long is sadly a given but unlike our other local rail line run by Northern Assist (Ormskirk – Preston) it has not really picked up enough since the well publicised troubles flowing from the May 2018 timetable changes.

In simple terms the trains on this line suffer from the following problems – being short-formed i.e. too few carriages, being terminated short of their destination, being cancelled.

The reasons for these troubles seem to be a combination of insufficient rolling stock and lack of availability of train crews. That this has gone on for as long as many travellers on the line can remember is a appalling.

OPSTA, the local volunteer railway campaign group covering the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan Lines is continually badgering Northern Assist and indeed anyone in the rail industry who will listen to try to drag the performance on the line up. Sadly, based on what we presently know, it may be some time (after the December 2019 timetable changes?) before the Southport Wigan – Manchester Line is back up to acceptable standards in terms of reliability.

Southport Station