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.

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/

Waterloo Beer Festival 2018

Keith Page and I had a great afternoon out yesterday at Waterloo Beer Festival in the magnificent Old Christ Church in Waterloo.

We sampled a number of excellent beers and ran into an old Derby Arms drinking chum in Mike Penn and his son Ste. Pictured here are Mike and Keith:-

My OPSTA mate Doug Macadam (Chairman of Southport & West Lancs CAMRA) was also on hand running the pub games stall although the England football match was distracting the attendees from playing them much.

This event is always well run; congratulations to the organisers.

Northern Trains – It just gets worse! –

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound. The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

Northern has stated unequivocally there will be no Sunday services during June and July on the Ormskirk – Preston Line! It has been only a couple of weeks since we were told that Sunday running trains (unusual for this particular line) would be put on to help combat the closure of Liverpool Lime Street Station! My previous posting refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/05/27/summer-sunday-service-schedule-preston-ormskirk-line/

The Weekday (Monday-Fridays) trains on the same line are often being replaced by buses presently. An Optimistic scenario is that trains may be back all day from Monday 18th or that it might be a staged return to trains. However, the Route Director is saying the emergency timetable for Ormskirk – Preston will remain in place until end of July unless they complete driver training sooner. Saturdays: it appears to be trains running all day.

And the business leaders of Northern still have jobs it seems, whatever next.

With thanks to OPSTA for the lead to this posting although the opinions expressed are my own.