Skelmersdale – That plan to bring a railway back to the town – An update

I blogged about this ambitious plan last August. Here’s the link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/08/08/is-skelmersdale-really-going-to-get-a-railway-station/

The old Skelmersdale Station - now long gone in the name of progress!

The old Skelmersdale Station – now long gone in the name of progress!

Well the Southport Visiter newspaper is carrying an update:-

www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/southport-west-lancs/skelmersdale-railway-plans-right-track-9370775

Looks like things are progressing although it is fair to say that what could well end up being a £100m+ project is thought not to be a runner in some circles simply because of that price tag. The theory goes that such a huge amount of money spent elsewhere on the local rail network could deliver other much needed projects (the Burscough Curves?) for far less money.

If delivered the project may well see Merseyrail electric trains reaching Skem’ with a diesel hauled service connecting Skem with Wigan.

This one has a long way to go before it really is a runner I think but as I said in my previous posting correcting the errors of the past does not come cheap!

With thanks to Cllr. John Dodd of Meols Ward in Southport for the lead to this updated story. John sits on the Merseytravel Committee.

Old Ordnance Survey Map – It’s 1958 in West Lancs and it still has the railways we now want restoring to use!

Back again to that old Ordnance Survey map of Liverpool that I picked up not so long ago from a second hand bookshop on Bewdley Station – Severn Valley Railway.

This latest posting about the map concerns the area of West Lancashire around Ormskirk, Skelmersdale and Burscough. Let’s have a look at it:-

Ormskirk & Skem' 1958

Click on the map to enlarge it.

The two notable issues are the north and south Burscough curves that once connected the Southport – Wigan & Ormskirk – Preston lines and the branch line from Ormskirk to Skelmersdale and off the map St. Helens.

Firstly the Burscough curves. I have posted on this blog site many times about them and OPSTA the voluntary group who have been campaigning for them to be reconnected over many years. The advantage of reconnecting them is obvious – Southport – Preston trains would again become possible as would Ormskirk – Southport trains. In 1958 they were still in place and the track beds still are; all it needs is a little vision from local authorities (Sefton and West Lancashire) and Network Rail.

The old Skelmersdale Station - now long gone in the name of 1960's progress!

The old Skelmersdale Station – now long gone in the name of 1960’s progress!

The Skelmersdale rail connection issue is interesting as the original branch was taken out of use as Skelmersdale New Town was being constructed, indeed some of Skem’ is built on the old railway. It is hard these days to understand the mentality of building a town and deliberately not including it on the railway network but such was the thinking in the 1960’s. Now a £1b project is seriously being considered to reconnect Skem to a railway by taking a spur off the Kirkby – Wigan line into the Town. Will it happen? I don’t really know but some seem to think that it will and I certainly hope so too.

Map of railways Southport-Ormskirk-Preston

Just look what we have lost.

rsz_north_eastern_railway_tiled_map

Above is a photo of a part of one of the famous North Eastern Railway tiled maps which now is preserved at the National Railway Museum in York. This part of the map covers the Sefton/West Lancs area and Preston.

The most obvious rail loss is the line from Southport to Preston. You could not imagine it being closed now if it had survived the Beeching era. Just think how it could be helping the Southport economy by bringing visitors to the Town and how it would assist in getting students between Southport and Preston. And this gets me back on my soap box about the inadequate nature of the both the Sefton and West Lancashire Local Plans as neither have majored on fixing the appalling east/west travel difficulties that are holding the Southport economy back.

But also look at the line leaving Ormskirk and running to Rainford Junction. This line also served Skelmersdale, a Town now desperate to to reconnected to the UK rail network and with some plans to try to achieve it.

Is Skelmersdale really going to get a railway station?

As a railway enthusiast, a member of OPSTA and someone who can’t get his head around why when planning this New Town the railway was torn up, the plans of Lancashire County Council and West Lancs Borough Council to correct the errors to the past are fascinating.

Firstly a photo of the old Skelmersdale Station which I purchased recently:-

rsz_skelmersdale_station_-_undated

And Wikipedia says:-
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skelmersdale_railway_station

So what’s the plan? To put it simply to take a spur off the Kirkby – Wigan line right into the heart of Skem’.

Is it a runner? Well money and a lot of it is the big issue, probably a £100m plus or minus project. It costs a lot for what can only been seen as a monumental mistake of the 1960’s.

Whether it will be a value for money project when stacked up against other railway investment projects is hard to say but I rank it as being in a similar category to the Robin Hood Line in Nottinghamshire which brought what was then one of the largest Towns in England without a railway station (Mansfield) back onto the railway map in the 1990’s.

Lancashire County and West Lancs Borough can’t be said to be leaders of innovative railway developments. Their lack of campaigning over the years for the Burscough Curves (which could reconnect the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines) and the County Council seemingly being lukewarm over the much needed investment in the Southport – Wigan line do make you wonder if they have determination to see this challenging project through.

There is a long way to go with this project and I really do hope it is a runner as opposed to a project with a lot of political froth around it but one heading for the sidings.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/