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

Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester – Tired and a bit Empty

I love museums and always have done but I must say this one in Manchester disappointed me.

The day did not start well when we arrived at Ladywell Park and Ride to get a tram into Manchester only to find that on this particular line last Saturday the trams were being replaced by buses as maintenance work was being done. Obviously I’ve heard the dreaded words for rail travellers before ‘rail replacement buses’ but tram replacement buses was a new one on me, although sadly just as depressing in practice I have to say. It took forever to get into Manchester but we did have a scenic tour of Salford Quays along the way.

Note to self and advisory for others, don’t go to Manchester expecting a tram ride without actually checking that the trams are running.

The nearest I got to Metrolink – Trams passing each other at the G-Mex – one day I’ll get a ride on one I hope.

Having got to the city center the tram replacement bus travelled past the end of Liverpool Road, where we wanted to get off, so we could wave at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and then dropped us off miles away from it having sailed (for whatever reason) past quite a few bus stops. But we finally got to the Museum.

First impressions were good, the entrance hall looked good, the welcome staff were friendly and the toilets and Cafe were fine too. Cafes in Museums have in general usually been poor in the UK and I’ve often wondered if poor spec cafes is actually a specification of the Dept. of Arts and Culture or whatever the UK Government is presently calling it. Don’t get me wrong the small volunteer/private museums where you can get little more than a mug of tea and a Kit Kat are great, it’s just that when you go to a National Museum you expect to be able to eat well at a decent price and rarely is this the case. But to give them their due MOSI had got this aspect pretty well bang on, so congratulations to them.

Stephen’s Rocket at MOSI

Sadly, that was about it though for me. We had a good look at the original Stephenson’s Rocket which had pride of place in the museum (it’s only there for another couple of weeks – until the 8th September) then toured the rest of the site. What struck us were the empty spaces especially in the former Liverpool and Manchester Station building and the lack of railway trucks and carriages etc. on the tracks outside of it. The Power Hall was closed for maintenance works and the separate building housing all the aircraft and vintage cars was also the subject of significant maintenance works (although open) and quite obviously an extremely leaky roof.

Crossley Limousine of 1909

MOSI seems to pitch itself as a museum of family entertainment with all kinds of activities taking place for youngsters but for the older generations I feel it looks tired and rather empty. I have little doubt that austerity will have played into the the maintenance issues or probably the lack of maintenance (due to lack of money) has led to an almost crisis maintenance regime where things only get fixed when they are really bad. But having said that I’ve been to this museum before, the last time maybe 15 years ago or more and I seem to recall it’s empty spaces from back them.

A giant MOSI mural on the side of a building

MOSI, in my view, needs a big injection of cash and a plan to make the best of it’s wide open spaces both inside and outside. Sorry it was a disappointment.

Northern Trains – Could the Ormskirk-Preston Line be the most poorly performing in the UK?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Well if it’s not I would hate to be a passenger on one that is even worse.

Last night I attended an open meeting of OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) and the stories of absolute chaos on this rail route were sad and numerous. An 80-year-old lady told the meeting how she can’t get to hospital appointments in Preston due to cancellations and the fact that some of the rail replacement buses don’t call at all the stations on the line! She lives in Croston and without the train, as she does not drive, getting to Preston is very difficult indeed.

Burscough Junction Station on the Ormskirk – Preston line.

If I’m correctly informed, which I think I am, there have no trains on the line at all this week so far. What’s more, I hear that Northern are resistant to paying for taxis when the trains and rail replacement buses both fail to provide a service.

Northern are supposed to be operating an hourly service on the line since the May 2018 timetable changes but it looks like they are interpreting this as 1 a week! We heard stories of passengers missing exams, having to take time off work or even getting to the stage where their jobs may be at risk because of this poorly performing rail franchise.

Unsurprisingly, Northern is reputed to be losing a lot of money on the franchise and there seems little confidence in those who know about the local rail industry that anything is going to change much in the foreseeable future. Will Northern have to pull out of the franchise, or will it have to be taken away from them?

It’s a sorry story indeed but it is ruining the lives of passengers who rely on Northern’s trains to get to work, to hospital, do their shopping or just run their day to day lives and frankly it is just not good enough. And the big question is what are the MP’s representing constituents along the Ormskirk – Preston line doing about it? One suggestion at the meeting was to try to replicate what Tim Farron the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale did when Northern failed spectacularly on the Lakes Line from Oxenhome to Windermere – he helped organise an alternative rail provider and made the DfT/Northern pay for it.

OPSTA are going to be banging the drum very hard indeed to get local politicians to take action. Oh, and by the way, there’s a clear suspicion that when Northern is in trouble they will often choose the Ormskirk – Preston Line to cancel trains – It would be interesting to get to the bottom of that train of thought.

As Northern Rail starts another week of misery for its passengers……………….

End of the line from Wigan, the Merseyrail service to Liverpool is accessed under the bridge.

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/diary-commuter-what-really-like-15427245

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.

I’m informed that this week is going to be yet another commuting challenge on many Northern routes because of the lack of availability of trains i.e. too many of them are bust. And the reason they are bust? Well for those of you who are interested in the technicalities my understanding is this. The shortage of trains follows a high number of wheel tread damage ‘flats’* incurred over the last 7 days following a deterioration of the railhead due to extreme autumn conditions. What’s extreme about this Autumn compared to any other?

Northern is predicting, so I’m told, a lack of around 20 trains on their network resulting in shorter more crowded trains along with full bus replacement services on the Ormskirk – Preston line today.

Northern expect, or more precisely their passengers expect, to experience crowding on many routes particularly into Manchester and Liverpool.

When will this madness end and Northern’s put out of their misery and the misery they cause to their passengers on a daily basis?

* Oddly on Remembrance Sunday when getting a Merseyrail train to Liverpool from Maghull the train I got on seemed to have wheel flats as you could hear it banging as the wheels turned. Not only that but whilst waiting for my train another passed through Maghull heading for Ormskirk and I could swear it had wheel flats too. Is there something to this extreme autumn conditions claim and what on earth is it?

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.

The new Maghull North Station is to blame

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyrail-northern-line-timetables-change-14627558

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

News from the Echo (in a dramatic way?) about the consequences (on the Northern Line timetable) of the new Maghull North Station opening and also the consequences of Liverpool Lime Street being partly shut down again for further upgrade works.