OPSTA Update – From the pages of Rail User Express

Rail User Express is the newsletter of Railfuture

Ormskirk’s Station with it’s split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by ‘mwmbwls’ borrowed from Flickr.

Ormskirk-Preston-Southport Travellers Association

In the draft Northern timetable from May 2018, just two peak services each way between Wigan and Manchester Piccadilly via Bolton would start and end at Southport, using bi-mode Class 319 Flex trains. Diesel powered alternators under the driving trailer cars of these units power the existing DC electric motors and on-board systems, so they can run both on electrified lines and to non-electric destinations. OPSTA believes that with just two more Flex trains, through services to Southport could be retained all day every day, though the extra trains may not be ready until Oct 2018. Local councils and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority back the idea, and Northern is helping OPSTA to build its case, but has yet to be convinced of the need for a Sunday service, which is not specified as a franchise requirement.

Departure board at Southport Station.

The 2018 timetable also proposes an hourly Preston – Ormskirk service from Monday – Saturday between 0626 and 2236 from Preston and 0701 to 2301 from Ormskirk, with a half-hour journey time. The trains arrive at Ormskirk and Preston from Colne, and Blackpool South respectively. Although not be shown as such in the timetable, these through services should make for both shorter and more convenient journeys. However, there is very little recovery time in the timetable, so any delay could have a lasting effect, albeit mitigated by the newly replaced passing loop at Rufford. Also, whilst the timings and connections at Preston look good, those from Liverpool at Ormskirk would be 17 mins, increasing to 24 mins in the evening. However, the Merseyrail timetable will change when Maghull North station opens in 2018.

OPSTA – Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – the lobbying continues – From the pages of the ‘Railfutures’ Rail Users Express Newsletter

The tender specification for the new Northern franchise did not hold out any promise of improvements for OPSTA’s services, so the group has been lobbying the shortlisted bidders in the hope of securing additional benefits – they’ve taken an evidence-based approach, backing up their demands with travel-census figures and passenger-survey reports. Some further dialogue with bidders may take place, but OPSTA thinks there’s probably more to be achieved if they switch their attention back to Rail North, transport authorities and the Dept. for Transport.

Recently, representatives from Transport for Greater Manchester welcomed OPSTA’s survey and census work, stating that it produced some very valuable data. It is anticipated that OPSTA’s case for improved services for Edge Hill will be reinforced shortly by the results of a travel survey of students and staff at Edge Hill University, organised by One West Lancs Transport Group.

Also it’s reported that the reopening of Midge Hall station was being keenly discussed between OPSTA and local councillors … until the hiatus caused by the May elections (it’s hoped that talks will resume now the elections are behind us).

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place in 1968.

An historic shot of the curves when they were in place in 1968.

In OPSTA’s newsletter, a detailed analysis of electrification options for the North West comes down in favour of extending Merseyrail’s DC system for lines such as Wigan-Southport, and concludes that reinstatement of the Burscough curves would be an essential element of such a scheme.

Burscough Bridge Station - July '15

Burscough Bridge Station – July ’15

The nightmare scenario is for lines such as Southport and Kirkby to Wigan/Manchester to be “left out in the cold” as the wires are extended elsewhere in the region. Major events such as the Southport Air Show often lead to severe overcrowding, and OPSTA has been using its local knowledge to assist Northern Rail in planning for such occasions. Merseytravel’s Burscough Demand Study is to be released shortly, and OPSTA expects to be consulted about its findings.

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport - Wigan - Manchester Line. The threatened booking/ticket office is to the left of the train.

A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line. The threatened booking/ticket office is to the left of the train.

Meanwhile, the campaign to retain booking office facilities at Burscough Bridge station drags on – see photo above.

Text from Rail Users Express photos from Antony Graham, OPSTA, and my own collection respectively. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – time to redress 50 years of neglect!

The article below, about the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) is from the May edition of Rail User Express the newsletter of Railfuture

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Much of the committee’s time in the early part of 2014 was taken up with formulating a response to the draft West Lancashire Transport Masterplan. Useful meetings were held with both council officers and local MP’s, and the group is hopeful that many of its suggestions will be incorporated in the final Masterplan. The lack of any statement about the Southport-Wigan line was an omission; also the group wanted to see a firm commitment to carry out further studies into the merits of a south-west curve at Burscough.

OPSTA has been involved in meetings about the role of Rail North, and the development of the railway in their area – especially prospects for electrification. The group notes that Northern has been tasked to refocus on revenue collection during their franchise extension period, and OPSTA members are asked to report incidents where ticket checks are not conducted on trains. The group will be monitoring patronage of the additional service on the Ormskirk-Preston route from the May timetable change, and they’ve persuaded Northern to at least produce a cost estimate for a Sunday service on the line.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the direct Southport-Preston line, and an event in September to mark the occasion is being planned. Correspondents to OPSTAs newsletter make the point that routes to Southport have been neglected in the intervening period, not the least because the town was perversely placed in Merseyside, while the railways to the east run primarily through West Lancashire. Reinstatement of the Burscough curves would once again facilitate easier journeys between Southport and Preston.

The OPSTA stand at Preston Model Rail Club show generated a good level of interest – and 4 new members! The stand will be out again at events in June. The Friends of Meols Cop Station have started work on a new wild flower garden, despite suffering the attention of vandals earlier in the year. At Croston Station, the Friends group has been working tirelessly for three years to turn the overgrown wilderness on the disused platform into a neat and colourful garden; “before” and “after” photos on the back cover of OPSTA’s magazine amply illustrate the fantastic transformation.

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I will write about Southport’s Meols Cop Station in a future posting.