Preston by train from Ormskirk

We decided to go to Preston recently but to go by train from Ormskirk on that almost backwater line that has an irregular service.

My previous posting of not so long ago about Ormskirk, details the history of the bizarre splitting of the through Liverpool – Preston line at this market town. See link below to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/01/ormskirk-end-of-the-line-well-end-of-two-lines-actually/

Ormskirk Station at night.

Ormskirk Station at night.


We got the 1.24 from from Ormskirk, one of only 13 trains to Preston that day. On a similar weekday there are trains to and from Ormskirk to Liverpool every 15 minutes daytime and every half hour in the evenings!

Burscough Junction Station

Burscough Junction Station

First stop was Burscough Junction Station. Firstly, there is no junction and has not been for many, many years because some bright sparks in the 1960’s took away the connecting curves (The Burscough Curves) to the Southport – Wigan Line which our train crossed on a bridge soon after this station stop. The other noticeable thing is that Burscough is expanding fast with many new homes around Burscough (No) Junction Station and many more to come I hear. Shame they will get such an irregular railway service to Ormskirk and Preston.*

Rufford Station

Rufford Station

Next came Rufford, where there is a passing loop for the trains that don’t pass each other any more! The same diesel unit usually trundles between Ormskirk & Preston all day. Rufford is of course famous for its Old Hall, a very nice National Trust property that is well worth a visit.

Rufford Old Hall

Rufford Old Hall

Croston Station

Croston Station

The final stop before Preston was Croston a pleasant village that suffered terrible flooding only a few months ago.

Between Croston and Preston is a disused Station with the building, on the Preston bound side of the line, still standing although not in railway use any more. The Station was called Midge Hall and there have been calls for it to be reopened due to new housing going up on the former Leyland Test Track quite near to it.

The middle section of the line is not continuously welded rail so the familiar clickity-clack of the train going over the rail joints is quiet apparent. Indeed, we were riding on an infamous Class 142 Pacer or ‘Nodding Donkey’ or Pile of Crap depending on your view of them. They were built for lightly loaded railway lines based on a bus body and just 4 wheels on each of the two carriages. You soon get to realise why they became nick-named Nodding Donkeys on the jointed rails! They really do bounce up and down. Pacers are due to be phased out by around 2018/19 and that can’t come soon enough. They even have bus type seating from the 1970’s, well at least the one we were on did. Not uncomfortable but definitely from a long gone era.

Checking Tickets

Checking Tickets

The West Lancs countryside is lovely, with the Rufford Branch of the Leeds Liverpool canal following the line and a canal marina to see. The conductors were friendly and seemed to be very diligent in checking tickets both there and back. The rail franchise to run Northern trains changed on 1st April and Arriva now operate most trains in the north of England. I hear that the previous operator was not good at checking tickets but as I say the new one seems to be.

If you have need to travel to Preston why not go by train, its a nice trip it was only £5 return during the day and we really enjoyed it.

* One of the promises made my the new Arriva franchisee is that the Ormskirk – Preston Line will gain an hourly service equating to 17 trains per day (but oddly still no trains on a Sunday) from December 2017. Why on earth do railway planners think folks don’t move around on a Sunday and Ormskirk is a university town too!

Why not check out OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) who campaign to have this line upgraded (and the Southport Wigan Line). Their web site is at:-

www.opsta.btck.co.uk/

Ormskirk – End of the Line – Well end of two lines actually

Two faced in Ormskirk (two clock faces that is) with both a tower and a steeple on its Parish Church.

Two faced in Ormskirk (two clock faces that is) with both a tower and a steeple on its Parish Church.

The market town of Ormskirk (famous for its gingerbread and for having a very rare Parish Church with both a tower and a steeple) nestles in a rather awkward spot sandwiched between Preston, Southport, Liverpool, Skelmersdale and Wigan. And by awkward I mean with regard to its transport connections with surrounding communities. It also has one of the oddest present day railway configurations you could come up with (although it shares such a configuration with Kirkby on Merseyside as you will find out later in this posting) if you wanted to restrict folk’s ability to travel by train.

I tracked down some traditional Ormskirk gingerbread at DC Scott & Sons in Church Street and very nice it is too.

WP_20160430_15_56_43_Pro r

For reasons best known to the railway planners of the 1960’s the through Liverpool – Preston line was severed at Ormskirk. So now you can get a train from Liverpool to Ormskirk and return with a frequency of every 15 minutes most of the time. You can also get a train from Ormskirk to Preston and return with a frequency of, well let’s be polite, not very often! The trains even meet end on at Ormskirk Station with a noticeable few feet of former railway track that has been removed.

Ormskirk's crazy railway arrangement with split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo.

Ormskirk’s crazy railway arrangement with split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo.

And here’s a second shot of the missing link taken by my Flickr friend mwmbwls:-

Ormskirk's crazy railway arrangement with split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by 'mwmbwls' borrowed from Flickr.

At face value those railway planners were seemingly keen for Ormskirk folk to go southwards towards Liverpool but not at all keen for the Town’s residents to travel northwards towards Preston. That’s pretty much the only conclusion you can come up with. Or could it be that the good Berger’s of Preston said look do us a favour British Rail keep that Ormskirk lot out of our community by offering them a really poor train service to Preston. Or could it even be that Ormskirk folk have deep seated reasons not to want to go to Preston? Neither of these possibilities is realistic and in the real world faceless railway planners just beggared things up in an era when running down our railways was the popular sport of the day.

Talk now is of the 15 minute frequency electrified line from Liverpool being extended deeper into rural West Lancashire to reach Burscough and ultimately even on to Preston. Well to be fair there has been talk of this for 30 years or more but less than nothing has happened so far.

The same ‘visionary’ railway severing was also visited on Kirby in Merseyside. There at Kirkby Station, on the Liverpool – Wigan line is a similar missing section of track. But, like with the Ormskirk – Preston Line, there is now talk of extending the electrified railway to Skelmersdale, which will even mean a couple of miles of brand new track bed will have to be laid where no track has been before. Radical transport planning indeed although it’s worth remembering that Skelmersdale (the old town) did once have a railway and station (on the former Ormskirk – St Helens line) but it was abandoned and built on for the Skem New Town. Yes, Skem was deliberately built without a railway connection and Station in the 1960’s and 1970’s but unsurprisingly it now needs one.

But returning to Ormskirk which is in West Lancashire and a part of Lancashire County i.e. it is not a part of Merseyside like Liverpool and Southport*. You may be starting to get my drift here in that Lancashire County Council’s transport planners are responsible for how folks get in and out of Ormskirk so why have they not addressed the ridiculous railway severing? It’s not as if they have not had time to get around to it; they’ve had since local government re-organisation in 1974. That’s over 40 years!

As a transport planning body goes Lancashire County Council must be a rum lot because neither have they addressed the need to reconnect the Burscough Curves where the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines cross each other just west of Burscough. Just a few hundred yards of track being put back would mean that Ormskirk folk could go to Southport by train. Wouldn’t that be nice.

It’s the lack of vision that beggars belief especially as Ormskirk can be very congested at times of good weather because drivers from far and wide are trying to navigate its narrow roads to get to Southport. So yes you’ve guessed it Lancashire’s County Council has not come up with a credible package to have a by-pass around the Town east to west either but that’s another story.

By rail Ormskirk is only well connected to Liverpool. It’s poorly connected to Preston and not connected at all to Southport, Skem or Wigan. You could not make this up. It’s a funny old transport world in that oft forgotten part of Lancashire called West Lancs. Time to go chew on a piece of gingerbread me thinks.

* West Lancashire does have an ‘associate’ seat at the Liverpool City Region table but that seems to mean they get to watch what goes on (usually a lot of bickering, if we understand how Merseyside politics works or probably does not work) without having to buy a ticket. In other words poor old West Lancs is a second class passenger at that table.

Both of my photos are amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus – Posting 2 – We are not connected to Southport!

My first posting on this prospectus of a few days ago is available via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/17/lancashire-enterprise-partnership-the-lancashire-strategic-transport-prospectus-january-2016-posting-1-the-superport-implications/

Moving on page 19 of this weighty document is a map of Lancashire and some of its surrounding areas and Sefton gets a mention. Well a mention is putting it a bit strongly – the word Sefton is on the map and it is right where you would expect to see the name Southport!

Having said that even within West Lancashire Ormskirk and Burscough are not named on this map, although Skelmersdale is. Oh and the title of the map ‘ Lancashire’s arc of prosperity’.

Sadly, this map probably confirms the theory that I have had for some years in that council boundaries seem to be seen as barriers to pretty much everything. How on earth can the communities of West Lancashire develop when those in the north and east of Sefton Borough (Southport, Formby, Maghull, Lydiate etc.) are in a different plan? It makes no sense at all.

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place in 1960's. How come the reinstatement of the curves and the Southport - Wigan Manchester line does not get a mention in the LEP Transport Prospectus?

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place in 1960’s. How come the reinstatement of the curves and the Southport – Wigan Manchester line does not get a mention in the LEP Transport Prospectus?

Strangely though on page 34 there is acknowledge of the need to connect (by rail) Skelmersdale to Liverpool so why not the need to connect Southport to Ormskirk and Preston?

More on this in posting 3 to come along soon.

Park Pool Ormskirk – Still under threat of closure?

leisure_parkpool1_06

I got this e-mail the other day:-

We are writing to you because you recently signed our petition to save Park Pool. This generated over 1000 signatures in 48 hours – a huge response that quickly prompted some backtracking by the [West Lancashire Borough] council Leader.

We are writing to you now to make you aware that the threat to Park Pool’s long term future is still very real, even if it is safe in the very short term.

In spite of the Council Leader’s categorical assurances that Park Pool was safe, the draft [West Lancashire Council] Leisure Strategy still mentions the word “closure” in relation to Park Pool on Page 21 Section c). Worse, when Councillor Adrian Owens moved an amendment at the full council meeting to specifically remove this closure reference, Labour councillors voted the amendment down as they were determined that the possibility of the pool’s closure remained in the draft strategy.

Labour may say they want to replace the pool. They don’t say with what or where. We believe from the original wording of the council report – the report that the petition helped change – that they mean Edge Hill [University].

Park Pool makes an operating surplus, serves 15 primary schools with swimming to meet their national curriculum requirement, 9000 swimming lessons a year and has provided employment for a growing number of local people as its use has actually increased in recent years. It is a highly popular and well located facility whose construction was part funded by the people of Ormskirk. The new facilities at Edge Hill are primarily for University use and are not available to the community or schools for much of the week.

Therefore, it is down to local people to see if we can get the closure reference removed. The council are now consulting on the draft strategy. We are asking you please to respond to the consultation on the draft leisure strategy.

A short email headed Consultation Response to Draft Leisure Strategy and emailed to leisure@westlancs.gov.uk stating that you want the reference to closure of Park Pool at Page 21 c) removed and replaced with a commitment to invest in and develop the facility would be enormously helpful. The pressure from the petition that prompted the partial change of direction needs to be maintained.

Please ensure that you ask for an acknowledgement that your email has been received by the [West Lancs Borough] council and we would be grateful if you could please keep us informed of any correspondence you make on this matter. You may want to copy your ward councillors into any consultation response you make.

The e-mail was from a group who call themselves ‘Our West Lancashire’ and my understanding is that their only councillor (mentioned above) left the West Lancs Borough Council Conservative Group not so long ago. What’s more him doing so gave Labour the leadership of the Council!

Ormskirk – A look back at its station in the 1970’s

In the last of my present run of 1970’s photos’ of a number of Merseyrail Stations in the latter days of the the old Class 502 EMU here is Ormskirk.

A 502 EMU at Ormskirk

I purchased the photo (and then scanned it) from the Friends of the 502 Group.

The photo is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Southport Model Railway Exhibition 2015

This is always a good show that is well worth a visit. This year it was held over the weekend of the 7th/8th November at Greenbank High School.

I ran into my old friend Geoff Payne who was running the West Lancashire Light Railway stand. Geoff is an Aintree Village Parish Councillor of long standing. It was nice to catch up with him especially as I not previously realised that he was a fellow railway enthusiast.

I also spied my old chum Roger Bell running the OPSTA stall. Roger is a also a Labour member of West Lancs Borough Council and was deep in conversation with someone (Roger is a big talker!). I thought I would have a chin wag with him later, trouble is he must have seen me as I could not find him on my second circuit! Only kidding Roger.

Here are 3 photos I took at the exhibition:-

A typical American steam era scene in HO scale.

A typical American steam era scene in HO scale.

A beautiful Darjeeling live steam loco on 32mm track.

A beautiful Darjeeling live steam loco on 32mm track.

In steam - a delightful representation of a British narrow gauge train also on 32mm track.

In steam – a delightful representation of a British narrow gauge train also on 32mm track.