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

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

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

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/