Burscough – At the centre of rail improvements?

Cllr. John Dodd

Cllr. John Dodd

Cllr. John Dodd the Lib Dem member of the Merseytravel Committee (appointed by Sefton Council) which oversees our local rail network has been asking questions about how our local rail network in north Merseyside and West Lancashire can be improved and it seems that if there are are to be any significant improvements Burscough will be at the heart of things, at least as far as Merseytravel is concerned.

This is what John was told:-

The enhancement of the Ormskirk-Preston Line is identified as one of the packages of improvement contained within the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy.

This package identifies a number of possible improvements which could be undertaken on the line. These include for instance the full electrification to Preston, re-introduction of the Curves (both north and south) and possible improvements on the Southport-Manchester Line. The potential to deliver a new interchange station which would link both the Ormskirk-Preston line and the Southport-Manchester line is also included.

The Strategy, in some cases, includes a number of possible options to deliver a solution to a particular problem. In this case the Interchange* could be a possible alternative to the re-introduction of the Curves as both would provide links between the lines.

* In this case ‘Interchange’ could mean building a new station just to the east of the present Burscough Bridge Station (on the Southport – Manchester line) and to the north of Burscough Junction Station (on the Ormskirk – Preston line. Trouble is that the new station would be, in effect in the middle of nowhere as the site where the two lines cross each other is literally in the middle of fields with no present road access. Now this idea is not new and has been floated before, but how realistic it is, is a different matter.

Looking towards Wigan at Burscough with the Ormskirk - Preston line crossing the Southport - Wigan line via the bridge.  It's where this bridge is that an Interchange Station could be built. The Burscough Curves would reconnect these two lines.

Looking towards Wigan at Burscough with the Ormskirk – Preston line crossing the Southport – Wigan line via the bridge. It’s where this bridge is that an Interchange Station could be built although the camera makes the signal box and bridge look much loser than they are in reality. The Burscough Curves could reconnect these two railway lines of course.

I also hear that another option is to potentially take the Merseyrail electric trains into Burscough Bridge Station by reinstating the southern of the Burscough Curves.

Of course any of this depends on the Merseyrail network being extended north of Ormskirk and a study recently undertaken by a firm of consultants, employed by Merseytravel, may well tell us whether this is actually likely to happen or not. The study called, I think, the ‘Burscough Demand Study’ is yet to see the light of day in the public domain. When it will be released I do not know but we can only hope that it is not as deeply flawed as as previous studies into the reinstatement of Burscough Curves were.

Burscough the centre of the north Merseyside/West Lancashire rail network, now there’s a thought back to what it once was.

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place, probably from around 1960.

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place, probably from around 1960. This shot gives a better idea of the distance out into the fields that any interchange station would be.

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OPSTA – Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – the lobbying continues – From the pages of the ‘Railfutures’ Rail Users Express Newsletter

The tender specification for the new Northern franchise did not hold out any promise of improvements for OPSTA’s services, so the group has been lobbying the shortlisted bidders in the hope of securing additional benefits – they’ve taken an evidence-based approach, backing up their demands with travel-census figures and passenger-survey reports. Some further dialogue with bidders may take place, but OPSTA thinks there’s probably more to be achieved if they switch their attention back to Rail North, transport authorities and the Dept. for Transport.

Recently, representatives from Transport for Greater Manchester welcomed OPSTA’s survey and census work, stating that it produced some very valuable data. It is anticipated that OPSTA’s case for improved services for Edge Hill will be reinforced shortly by the results of a travel survey of students and staff at Edge Hill University, organised by One West Lancs Transport Group.

Also it’s reported that the reopening of Midge Hall station was being keenly discussed between OPSTA and local councillors … until the hiatus caused by the May elections (it’s hoped that talks will resume now the elections are behind us).

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place in 1968.

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place in 1968.

In OPSTA’s newsletter, a detailed analysis of electrification options for the North West comes down in favour of extending Merseyrail’s DC system for lines such as Wigan-Southport, and concludes that reinstatement of the Burscough curves would be an essential element of such a scheme.

Burscough Bridge Station - July '15

Burscough Bridge Station – July ’15

The nightmare scenario is for lines such as Southport and Kirkby to Wigan/Manchester to be “left out in the cold” as the wires are extended elsewhere in the region. Major events such as the Southport Air Show often lead to severe overcrowding, and OPSTA has been using its local knowledge to assist Northern Rail in planning for such occasions. Merseytravel’s Burscough Demand Study is to be released shortly, and OPSTA expects to be consulted about its findings.

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport - Wigan - Manchester Line. The threatened booking/ticket office is to the left of the train.

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line. The threatened booking/ticket office is to the left of the train.

Meanwhile, the campaign to retain booking office facilities at Burscough Bridge station drags on – see photo above.

Text from Rail Users Express photos from Antony Graham, OPSTA, and my own collection respectively. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Merseyrail – New Trains – Some further thoughts

IMG_4864

The Merseyrail report [that I posted about recently – see link below] needs to be read in the light of the March 2015 ORR [Office of Rail Regulation] statement reiterating their opposition to 3rd rail electrification extensions:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/06/17/merseyrail-what-will-the-new-trains-look-like-and-when-will-they-appear/

ORR says:

1. It must be safe.
2. There is a presumption against 3rd rail in new build or extended 3rd rail due to safety requirements.
3. Where 3rd rail exists the operator should continually review it whilst seeking improvements in design, operation and maintenance.

ORR considers that the weight of safety evidence creates a presumption against new-build or extended third rail being reasonably practicable. A duty holder will therefore need to demonstrate, to ORR’s satisfaction, that any proposed new-build or extended third rail proposal complies with the applicable legislation and be able to explain how and why it rebuts this presumption

Where new 3rd rail extensions are proposed they must demonstrate;

1. They have considered the full range of options available.
2. Proceeding with 3rd rail is the only viable option.
3. How compliance with health and safety legislation will be achieved from the design stage onward.

In any renewal of a 3rd Rail section consideration must be given to replacing it.

In non-technical terms this could mean that if the electrified line is extended from say Ormskirk to Burscough and/or from Kirkby to Skelmersdale that overhead wires ‘should’ provide the power to run the trains rather than an extended 3rd rail.

Again, I am indebted to my friend Bob who is an expert in this field. My comments above are those in italics.

Cut backs in rail improvements – Don’t cut in Merseyside and West Lancs as we have so far had b*gger all!

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33270586

The BBC has the story – see link above.

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station.

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station.

Tories have always been the Party of the private car, are they retuning to type?

Will the Tories take back the money for Maghull North Station which the Coalition Government promised?

Will the Skem’ project get off the ground?

As for Labour’s carping, they invested so very little in rail upgrades when in Government and have no room to moan.