Southport – It’s rail link to Manchester is vital if our tourist town is to fulfill its potential

I have commented on this blog site many times about the importance of the Southport – Wigan – Manchester railway line but a recent reading of Nigel Dyckhoff’s book ‘Portrait of the Cheshire Lines Committee’ really does press home why this is the case.

Southport Station at night with a 507/508 EMU awaiting to depart for Liverpool.

Southport Station at night with a 507/508 EMU awaiting to depart for Liverpool.

This quote from the 5th chapter of Nigel’s book (published in 1999) says it all:-

‘Modelled on the exclusive resorts of the South of France and laid out as a garden city, Southport became known in publicity material as the ‘Montpellier of the North’. A fashionable watering place and residential area for the businessmen of Manchester and Liverpool’

Of course in 2016 we would say ‘businessperson’ but what Southport really, really needs (and soon) is the return to the fast train services into Manchester which were lost in the 1960’s. To achieve that the line needs to be electrified before we enter the next Ice Age rather than on the vague goodness knows when Network Rail timetable that presently exists.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Departure board at Southport Station.

It stands to reason, especially with our choked roads/motorways and the lack of an east/west Ormskirk road bypass, that if folks are to live in Southport and have quick and comfortable access into Manchester (like they have into Liverpool) that upgrading of the railway line has to be a top priority for the Town. It will also need a decent park and ride station on the eastern edge of Southport with a significantly large car park.

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport - Wigan - Manchester Line.

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line.

This is surely an important way of improving the economy and indeed the retail offer of Southport. It will mean that wealth generated in Manchester can more easily be spent in Southport by people who depend on their income by working in Manchester but who love to live by the sea in Southport.

It’s really not rocket science just a look back to the way Southport used to be so much better rail connected to Manchester.

Southport Rail Transport Forum logo

Southport Rail Transport Forum logo

The present campaign to save the Southport rail services into Manchester Piccadilly is of course an important part of developing better rail access to Manchester from Sefton Borough’s tourism Town. The work of OPSTA, Southport Rail Transport Forum and John Pugh MP is vital but where are Merseytravel and Sefton Council in all this?

OPSTA logo

OPSTA logo

Merseytravel had to be dragged into including the Southport – Manchester Line in its Long Term Rail Strategy not so long ago but credit to them for accepting the arguments put forward at the time. But if Southport is to flourish as Merseyside’s tourism capital, which is surely in all our interests, then we will need to see some real, determined and positive campaigning by our Sub-Regional Transport Body and Borough Council, potentially over a number of years, to make serious change happen.

Without an electrified railway offering fast services into Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria Stations Southport will not be able to regain what it once had and so desperately needs. Just read that quote above once more; the railway answer to Southport’s eastern transport link problems is all to obvious!