HS2 – It’s in a bit of a pickle – But it should still be built

An HS1 train stands at St. Pancras Station in April 2009.

My good friend Phil Holden has recently been commenting at length (Phil is rarely short of words) on the pickle that HS2 finds itself in. Here’s a link to Phil’s blog posting on the matter:-

phlhldn.blogspot.com/2019/09/take-h-out-of-hs2-now.html

And here’s my comment on what Phil has said:-

Well Phil you’ve blown a whistle on HS2 with your full head of steam aimed at the chief promoter. Anyone would think you are trying to shunt him into a siding or even send him to Barry scrap yard where steam engines went to die.

But seriously, I agree with much that you say. HS2 is mainly about capacity, it always has been. Whether it is being poorly managed or not I bow to your expansive knowledge on such matters.

But yes of course it should be built, of that I have no doubt whatsoever. As for significantly high speed, I can live without that.

And finally how come the French, Spanish, Germans etc. can build high speed rail networks (and have been doing for many years) when we can’t without huge delays and breaking the bank?

Edinburgh Tram was another massive failure (in cost terms) and so has been our attempts to electrify rail routes across the UK. Indeed, the Government got so cheesed off with Network Rail’s carry on that they (wrongly in my view) cancelled many planned electrifications rather than sort out the dysfunctional Network Rail. I think a significant part of the problem will be associated with the UK losing too many experienced railway engineers in the years when we (not me I must add) thought railways were done and gone. We then got caught out with folks flocking back to them and having no capacity. Out came the plans for HS2 and electrifications but no one knew how to do it any more.

We should probably have got SNCF or the Spanish/German equivalents to design and build HS2 and it would probably be up and running before your mid 70’s. The birth place of railways has forgotten how to build them I’m sad to say.

Network Rail – Yet another electrification project ends up in the slow line

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-41706213

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

This is interesting and potentially far reaching as the new timetable, for introduction next May, was meant to have this electrified route up and running. If it’s not then it potentially causes all sorts of problems and the Northern rail franchise in particular may well be in a pickle.

In a pickle because they along with other rail operating companies have either been ordering new rolling stock and/or getting it cascaded to them from other franchise operators. If you have too many electric powered trains because there’s a late completion of a project such as the Manchester – Preston electrification and too few diesel trains trains because you were expecting to be running electric ones then that’s the pickle.

This then means that planned for service improvements, long promised and planned for, may be delayed. And it could be that rail operating companies like Northern may well be saying to Network Rail and the Department for Transport that it’s a pickle they are jointly responsible for not the rail operating company, so sort out the mess and don’t be blaming us!

Here’s a link to a Network Rail video about the difficulties they have encountered on the Manchester – Preston route electrification:-

twitter.com/NetworkRailGNRP/status/920314397905612802

With thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting

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!

John Pugh MP – Pushing for Southport’s poor railway line to the east to be upgraded

localfocusnews.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/southports-lib-dem-mp-slams-lack-of.html

John Pugh MP

Good to see Southport MP John Pugh taking the opportunity in Parliament to press for improvements in the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line – see the link above for the full story.

My recent posting about Burscough holding the key to some rail improvements in north Merseyside and West Lancashire may also be of interest for further background:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/11/18/burscough-at-the-centre-of-rail-improvements/