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

Ormskirk – Preston Line – A CRL video promoting it

Croston Station

I was just a little surprised to come across a seemingly pre-May 2018 railway timetable change video* (see link below) being circulated via Twitter very recently. I’ve been of the view that Community Rail Lancashire was rather disinterested in the line. The video promotes an hourly train service on the line from May 2018 and of course that didn’t happen back then** with the line suffering huge service failures during much of 2018 which even made the national news!:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvqCraWQYfU&app=desktop

I’ve blogged before (August 2018) about the seemingly disappointing approach of Community Rail Lancashire towards the Ormskirk – Preston Line. My relevant previous posting is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/03/does-the-west-of-lancashire-community-rail-partnership-serve-a-useful-purpose/

Burscough Junction Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line.

Maybe I need to be more positive about Community Rail Lancs if we’ve turned a corner now for the better. Here’s hoping for more positive initiatives from them.

* The video actually showcases the ‘Bee Line Project’ (no I had not heard of that either) which promotes the whole presently split rail corridor from Preston to Liverpool via Ormskirk.

** The line does now have a hourly train service and it has reached around 90% of the trains both running and near to timetable times. This is quite an improvement from the only 30%ish figures back in 2018 when services on the line all but collapsed completely. Sadly though, the consequence of such poor services for so long have meant passenger numbers on the Ormskirk – Preston part of the rail corridor are much, much lower than they were before the May 2018 timetable fiasco.

Merseyrail – The new Stadler 777 trains

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

* The first Class 777 unit is expected to arrive on Merseyside in the Autumn of this year.

* The seventh unit delivered, I am told, will not now have battery capability and the battery trial has been suspended due to an identified technical issue. Battery capable units are being looked upon by OPSTA and others to enable the extension of the Ormskirk line (for example) to Burscough and possibly even Preston as this option will be much cheaper than having to install electrification along the present Ormskirk – Preston Line. It is to be hoped that the technical issue will be solved.

* There seems to be some truth in the rumour that a number of the present Class 507 EMU’s may be retained. This is, I understand, a contingency plan should the movement of platform signals not be achieved in time. This would be an interim measure.

A new Stadler Merseyrail train artist impression