Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus – Posting 3 – Rails and Road conundrum

This is my 3rd and last posting about this recently published Lancashire Transport Prospectus. My previous 2 postings are available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/22/lancashire-enterprise-partnership-the-lancashire-strategic-transport-prospectus-posting-2-we-are-not-connected-to-southport/

Well this prospectus is a real curates egg of muddle to me and shows how both good and bad transport planning have come together in one document. The issue/problem seems to be associated with naturally adjoining communities that need connectivity with each other being in differing local authority areas.

An example of some good joined up planning is the proposal to bring rails and a station back into Skelmersdale. Sadly necessary because in the 1960’s town planners built a New Town whilst tearing up the original railway tracks. Page 36 of the report addresses this:-

Skelmersdale rail link – The Partnership want it completed by 2024

Whilst Skelmersdale enjoys excellent strategic connectivity to the Strategic Road Network via the M58, access to both Liverpool and Manchester is limited; it is one of the largest towns in the country without a town centre railway station. The nearest railway station, Upholland, is not easily accessible without a car and only served by an hourly train service to Kirkby and Wigan, and bus services are slow and journeys indirect.

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

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

The West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan, adopted by Lancashire County Council in October 2014, is proposing the wholesale reconfiguration of Skelmersdale’s transport networks to meet both current and future needs, not just for local residents and businesses but for West Lancashire as a whole. At its heart is a new rail link and town centre railway station, fully integrated with the bus network and easily accessible on foot or by cycle, and with sufficient car parking provision to function as a ‘Parkway’ station.

So good planning here to reconnect Skem in West Lancs to Kirkby/Knowsley and Liverpool. And there’s yet more good transport planning – to continue the electrified Liverpool – Ormskirk line on to Preston. Can’t come too soon in my view after another ridiculous severing of the original Liverpool – Preston link in the 1960’s. Here’s what the report says:-

Ormskirk-burscough-Preston rail link (the Partnership wants it in place by 2029) and the prospectus says:-

A 1958 map of part of the West Lancs area. The crossing of the Southport - Wigan and Ormskirk - Preston rail lines can be seen north-east of Burscough.

A 1958 map of part of the West Lancs area. The crossing of the Southport – Wigan and Ormskirk – Preston rail lines can be seen north-east of Burscough.

Merseyrail currently operates a fast and frequent service between Liverpool and Ormskirk using electric trains. However, onward travel to Preston requires a change of train to a diesel-operated service that is infrequent and run to an irregular timetable. Rolling stock quality is also poor. Electrification of the Ormskirk to Preston route with appropriate infrastructure enhancements would resolve the majority of issues, significantly improving connectivity between Preston, West Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region. In addition, there is the potential to provide better interchange between Liverpool-Ormskirk-Preston and
Manchester-Wigan-Southport services at Burscough. Both are aspirations in the Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy published in August 2014.

So ticking all the right boxes again here. BUT, BUT, BUT…..

Firstly an aside not directly connected with the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. Merseytravel (the public transport body for Merseyside) commissioned a study not so long ago called the Burscough Demand Study regarding the first stage of moving the electrified train service further north from Ormskirk to Burscough. Merseytravel Committee member Cllr. John Dodd has been trying to get hold of a copy of the study report for months now but so far with no response. Cllr. Dodd requested that it be copied to him on the following dates 21st October, 2nd November, 16th November, 30th November, 14th December, 4th January, 18th January, 1st February but he has not even had a reply from the Transport Authority he is a member of! Just keep that thought in mind.

Returning to the LEP Prospectus – Sadly, however, this LEP report follows on from the 2014 West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan in not addressing two huge transport issues in West Lancashire i.e. not proposing an east/west Ormskirk road by-pass and not proposing serious development of Southport – Wigan – Manchester railway line.

Both these issues could if they were properly pursued have really positive benefits for West Lancashire and Southport/North Sefton residents but with Southport being in Merseyside the joined up thinking that seems to be there with the Skem/Kirkby/Liverpool rail link is missing in spades here.

I don’t know about you but surely Ormskirk should have had an east/west road bypass years ago in my book. It should have been built for the sake of the folks who live in an almost permanent Ginger Bread Town* traffic jam (together with the associated air and noise pollution) and for the economic development and much needed better access to Southport. Why keep ducking this issue when what it needs is the determination akin to that which recently delivered the new Switch Island – Thornton Link Road (Broomscross Road) in Sefton?

Then there is the very small mention in the prospectus of the Manchester – Wigan – Southport railway line (in the quote from the document above) and even that is only about connectivity between the two rail lines which cross each other at Burscough. Yes, such better interchange facilities are obviously required but far more than that the line from Southport through Wigan to Manchester needs serious investment. Such investment would benefit Southport and West Lancashire but where is the ambition in Lancashire and within the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership? And don’t forget that the Burscough Curves need to be reinstated (you can see them still in place on the 1958 map above) so that rail travel is again possible between Southport and Preston and Ormskirk and Southport.

Readers of this blog site will recall that when a Sefton Borough Councillor I had to fight tooth and nail to get Merseytravel to include the development of the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line in their City Region Long Term Rail Strategy. That battle was finally won with the help of John Pugh MP, OPSTA and the Southport Rail Transport Forum but now we have both Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership seemingly heel dragging on the very same issue!

So at the conclusion of my 3 part commentary on the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Strategic Transport Prospectus I am both delighted at the progress in some transportation areas but utterly deflated about the lack of it in others.

Come on Lancashire, start talking seriously to Sefton and do some joint transport planning which the residents of both areas could benefit from immensely.

* Ormskirk is famous for its Gingerbread

The railways of Merseyside and beyond – @1900

Photo1315

Click on the map to enlarge it

The North Eastern Railway had a number of these tiled maps produced for display at major railway stations. Each one was made up of 64 ceramic tiles with a ceramic decorative border. The photo above shows Greater Merseyside and was taken at the National Railway Museum in York where a restored original map is displayed.

Although it does not show all railways the routes north of Liverpool are well displayed.

The sadly missing lines, in the present day, are the Southport Preston line (known locally as the Lettuce Line) and the Ormskirk – St Helens line via Rainford which was obliterated when Skelmersdale New Town was built in the 1960’s leaving the Town without a railway station! Now there are campaigns to take a railway back into Skem at huge cost and one to reinstate the Burscough curves as the northern one of which would again allow trains to run between Southport and Preston all be it via a different route.

Merseyrail as it used to be

Harking back to that recent trip of mine to see the Class 502 EMU being restored in Burscough I also saw some interesting artifacts.

Firstly, there is the destination blind roll from an old 502 unit which reminds us of the former parts of this electrified network which are no longer even railways.

IMG_5145r

And then what about this old illustrative map of the extent of what we now call the Northern Line to Southport and Ormskirk.

IMG_5147r

Of course Southport lost its suburban electrified service to Crossens a long time ago (1964) and indeed the whole of its railway line to Preston. The loss of this line (known as the Lettuce Line locally) has been a huge economic disadvantage to Southport particularly as the alternative rail route to Preston, via the Burscough Curves, has also been lost (the connecting curves that is) and the powers that be seem far from willing to reinstate them. OPSTA, our local railway campaign group, John Pugh MP and others try to keep this option on the agenda though despite Lancashire County Council showing little interest and Merseytravel not driving the project forward despite its often warm words.

IMG_5150r

The other interesting loss is the electrified line from Bootle to Aintree (see map above) and you can see from the destination blind roll (also above) how it was possible to reach Maghull via Marsh Lane (now Bootle New Strand) Station. This line ceased to be used for passenger trains in April 1951 although it was used for freight for many years after. It is now overgrown but protected from development in Sefton Council’s present Unitary Development Plan and will seemingly continue to be so protected in the draft succeeding Local Plan. Talk of it being reopened to provide another rail link to the expanding docks at Seaforth often pops up but despite years of such speculation by Merseytravel nothing actually happens.

The Merseyrail Northern Line may well have gained the Kirkby line but sadly it has lost two other electrified lines over the years. Feels like 2 steps back and 1 forward to me.

Click on the 3 photos to enlarge them

The second photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Southport – Crossens Station March 1912

Crossens Station March 1912 - Southport Preston Line

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

On the former West Lancashire Railway line from Southport to Preston and 3rd rail electrified too. Crossens is on the northern side of Southport.

A line like this would never have been shut these days; shame it did not survive the Beeching era. The alternative route for Southport – Preston trains would be/still could be via Burscough but this would need the the Burscough North Curve to be reinstated. Quite doable and the Ormskirk Preston and Southport Travellers Assn (OPSTA) is campaigning for that amongst other things. The Ormskirk – Preston line crosses over the Southport – Wigan Line at Burscough.

The photo was purchased from the National Railway Museum’s collection at York.

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

Old Map of Southport – 1958 – Some of it’s former railways were still on the map

I mentioned a few days ago (see link below) that I had come across an old Ordnance Survey Map of Liverpool from 1958.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/04/07/old-ordnance-survey-map-of-liverpool-in-1958-maghull-lydiate-the-cheshire-lines-railway/

The map also covers Southport so let’s have a look at that part of the map which I have scanned:-

Southport 1958

Click on the map to enlarge it.

The most noticeable thing is that the former West Lancashire Railway line from Southport to Preston is clearly still up and running. No way would that line have been closed now if it had only just survived the Beeching era. It was of course 3rd rail electrified from Southport to Crossens.

The trackbed of the former Southport and Cheshire Lines Extension Railway from Aintree is also just about visible along the coastline. It had been closed in July of 1952 and is now Southport’s Coastal Road from Ainsdale to near the old Lord Street Station. It also serves as the Cheshire Lines Long Distance Footpath which is part of the Trans Pennine Trail to Hull.

The former Liverpool, Southport & Preston Junction Railway (LS&PJR) line from Meols Cop/Blowick to Hillhouse Junction (on the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway) is still denoted as being in use as far as Shirdley Hill. Whilst the line closed in January 1952 it was retained as far as Shirdley Hill and used for the storage excursion carriages until 1964.

If readers want to no more about the West Lancashire Railway or indeed the LS&PJR there is an excellent book on it by J E Cotterall which was published by The Oakwood Press in 1982, that may be available in second hand book shops.

My 3rd posting based on this map will appear soon regarding railways around Ormskirk, Burscough and Skelmersdale.

Liverpool – A map for its future rail connections across the region?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/how-liverpools-rail-system-could-8979832

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Anyone would think that I am a railway enthusiast because today two people have sent me a link to the above Liverpool Echo article. So thanks Keith Page and Andrew Brown you have me banged to rights it seems.

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station

Seriously, this forward thinking by Kayla Bibby is worthy of significant consideration as Merseyside’s rail network desperately needs to grow so that it encompasses the whole of the travel to work area for Liverpool. Not only that but major towns like Southport need far better rail connectivity especially with Preston but also with Ormskirk.

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

Merseytravel went off the rails a few years ago when it got pulled into the tram mania that has been sweeping city after city in the UK. Don’t get me wrong I think trams are a great idea but on Merseyside we already had a good heavy rail network which could reasonably easily be expanded. To wander off dreaming about trams was an unnecessary waste of a few years and a huge amount of public money; no wonder the last Labour Government said no to Merseytram.

Let’s see what from Kayla Bibby’s map can reasonably be achieved and then get the ball rolling or the train on the tracks.