Northern Rail – Crisis talks with DfT?

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Railnews has the story on its website – see link below:-

railnews.mobi/news/2018/11/05-northern-in-crisis-talks-over.html

Rumours that Northern has been suffering financially have been around for a while but then again that’s surely no surprise to anyone based on their well-documented troubles.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum have been lobbying anyone who will listen about the poor levels of service on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport-Wigan-Manchester Lines for a long time now, indeed the troubles as I have often said well predate the May 2018 timetable meltdown.

But of course, Northern’s problems are far, far wider than the two local lines that I am reasonably well informed about and I have been impressed with the campaigning over these troubles by MP’s Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and Lisa Nandy (Wigan).

I appreciate that not all of Northern’s troubles are of their own making and that their franchise has been hugely impacted on in a negative way by Network Rail’s delayed electrification projects and by the related stalled cascading of rolling stock. However, the trouble is not only the financial impact on Northern, who seem to have significant industrial relations problems with their own staff but on the confidence that the travelling public has in them.

Surely ending this franchise would be best all round, would it not?

Does the West of Lancashire Community Rail partnership serve a useful purpose?

I’ve been reading in RAIL magazine (issue 855 – June 20th – July 3rd) all about how CRP (Community Rail Partnerships) can deliver social benefits and many other things. And then I thought about the two lines covered by the West of Lancashire CRP and wondered what on earth does it do?

I found a link to it’s web site and you can see it here

www.communityraillancashire.co.uk/lines/west-of-lancashire/

It’s profile is low and frankly these two lines have many issues with cancelled trains, overcrowded trains (Southport Wigan Line), lack of Sunday services (Ormskirk – Preston Line) etc. etc. So how effective is the CRP at addressing these issues? Based on the fact that pretty much all the social media input and campaigning on the issues/problems raised above seems to emanate from SRTF (Southport Rail Transport Forum) and OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) I really do wonder what the CRP actually does and how it engages with the communities it serves?

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Anyway, only the Ormskirk Preston Line is actually designated as a CRP line as defined by Government so the Southport – Wigan Line through West Lancs Borough can only be some form of informal CRP I guess.

I hear that Lancashire County Council are at best lukewarm over the potential to reopen the old station at Midge Hall on the Ormskirk – Preston Line despite the district council for the area being keen to press on with the reopening associated with major house building going on not so far away from the old station. Is this not the kind of project the CRP should be up and running with to develop the line?

And just what has the CRP done to address the lack of Sunday trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line? This has been a local transport issue needing to be resolved for a long time now, particularly with the huge number of students in and around Ormskirk at Edge Hill University.

Departure board at Southport Station.

Then we look at the loss of virtually all the trains on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line into Manchester Piccadilly Station, the vast majority of which now terminate at Manchester Victoria to the inconvenience of many Southport and West Lancs rail users. Just how has the CRP tried to influence this pressing issue?

Also, the Southport line was until recent times on the list to be electrified all be that some vague number of years down the line – no pun intended. The line has old trains which are run in an overcrowded way and with unreliability being the unfortunate watchword. And this well predates the May 2018 timetable meltdown by many years.

What I’m getting at here is that from my perspective the CRP is hardly high profile on any of these issues and the voluntary sector in the form of SRTF and OPSTA have seemingly had to take the lead in battling with our failed railway industry.

So I can I ask again what purpose does the West of Lancashire CRP serve?

Northern Franchise trains are really struggling at present, so much so….

northernfailapp.co.uk/

So much so that one disgruntled traveller has created the app – available via the link above – to record the failings of the north’s biggest train operating company. You may wish to access the app if you travel on Northern’s trains.

With thanks to Alan for the lead to this posting

Northern Rail – Just why are their services struggling to deliver and who’s going to fix things?

I guess many of passengers using Northern Rail in recent times will have asked themselves this question. Cancelled trains due to a lack of rolling stock and or drivers/guards seem to be an everyday occurrence nowadays and of course, as with Merseyrail, Northern are deeply into industrial action with rail union RMT over loss of train guards on new rolling stock.

I’m told that locally cancelled trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line are now a common occurrence, but it’s clear that Northern’s problems extend over the whole franchise area and it must be the case that Arriva, who own the Northern Rail franchise, are under pressure.

That northern MP’s are getting to the end of their tether with Northern is to be expected as their constituents fill the MP’s post bags with stories of poor performance. That frustration amongst northern MP’s leads to this (see link below):-

www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/1240

And of course we have seen that the services on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line are soon to go into Manchester Victoria Station, with few going to Manchester Piccadilly and none to Manchester Airport anymore.

All in all it seems that Northern’s passengers have a lot to be unhappy about but how are the problems going to get fixed?

City Regions and their Metro Mayors – Middle aged white men! Big diversity issues here but the concept of City Regions is flawed too

ciltuk.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/Focus/Mayors.pdf?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fciltemail.org.uk%2fcilt2011lz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Focus+_+May+_+2018&utm_term=How+have+the+metro+mayors+changed+British+politics%3f+%7c+May%27s+Focus+is+out+now!&utm_content=22855&gator_td=iT217sLHzHCoAXs18511elTuBZj1y%2bUBNsQ2o7DKf48Ic4IydWBQNaS7%2fFOG2l2wyKQc4JXZU1IwHtb%2bpWgqMLq5FmgGg%2b0arS69lo9I6mhxB3EwtEt8pRb3rC8KyWS2Hs0%2bO4QDHRDiyF8uROrzpNskgsTlxZ1gq3d5tjGKKoeO55z6Y6P5Szll43dbyFFILza%2fFcHZo3LJ9DDTp8PbDQ%3d%3d

The article is on the web site of Logistic and Transport Focus and is available via the link above

So many white middle aged men, yet most of them will be representing very ethnically diverse regions of England – regions where around 50% of the population will also be women I might add. A diversity disaster is my first thought.

I have always opposed the concept of City Regions and elected Mayors for a number of reasons. I don’t support the idea of concentrating power in the hands of one person, whomever that person may be, as it is a poor form of representation which does not deliver good democracy. Secondly, the devolved powers (certainly as far as the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside are concerned) are 2nd or even 3rd rate. But probably more than anything else I see power and resources being pulled into the heart of a City Region often at the expense of its surrounding towns and communities.

I can’t comment of the other City Regions as I’m not well enough informed but looking at my own Liverpool City Region I see two obvious examples of a pull to the centre and a disregard of an important issue to an outlying town.

The pull to the centre is the removal of around 3,000 civil servants from a deprived area into Liverpool City Centre. The losing community here is Bootle where a mini-Whitehall had been established over many years starting in the 1960’s. Yes some civil servants will be left in Bootle but why on earth take 3,000 of them out to place them in a crowded city centre where property is more expensive and the parking charges faced by poorly paid civil servants are high. Surely a lose lose situation especially when you take away the spending power of 3,000 workers from the Bootle retail economy. What did the Liverpool City Regional do about this? Well whatever it was it was ineffective because decisions made in the real Whitehall could not be overturned? Or was it that despite the huffing the puffing by the powers that be locally it actually suited some to concentrate jobs in Liverpool City Centre?

My second example is of an outlying Liverpool City Region Town effectively being left all but unsupported, by any meaningful regional intervention, over an important transport link. The link is the railway line and service from Southport to Wigan, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport which is about to suffer from a poorer service due to decisions being made by Network Rail, Northern Rail and the railway industry generally. The problem has been known about for a long time so it has not been a quick decision that has been difficult to address in a short timescale. Yet the main campaigners against the move to downgrade Southport’s rail service to Manchester have been two voluntary organisations – OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum. Where exactly has the Liverpool City Region and its Transport Committee Merseytravel been during this process and what have they done to defend the loss of an important rail link to Manchester Airport and a much reduced service to Manchester Piccadilly? But looking back further to when the Liverpool City Region produced its first Long Term Rail Strategy the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line did not even get a mention! That had to challenged and it was (successfully to some degree) but the 2nd iteration of this plan, published only last October, clearly makes the line little more than less than important to the City Region.

So my view remains that the concept of City Regions and City Region Mayors is badly flawed and that it can work to the disadvantage of towns surrounding a big city area. That neglect can manifest itself by things being drawn towards the centre or by issues in outlying towns being all but ignored. Look at it like this City Regions, as they are presently set up, are a bit like the overheated economy of the South East – a magnet for money to the City with crumbs from the city’s table finding its way to the outlying areas. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that as a rule of thumb any investment in an outlying City Region area will only happen if it is also to the advantage of the main hub.

Oh and just in case you’ve forgotten the other big issue – the City Region Mayors are all middle aged white men, just think on that.

Note – Both of the examples I have focused on above are within Sefton Borough

Southport – Machester Trains – Why travellers & commuters are fighting the downgrading of their line

www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdVH2fxqpVs#action=share

If you or your family/friends travel to Manchester from Southport the video linked above will be of interest.

Parbold Station Level Crossing on the Southport – Manchester Line

I have covered the work of the campaigners who are trying to stop the downgrading of this important railway line many times before. It is being led by the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) and the Southport Rail Transport Forum (SRTF) and they are jointly doing a great job in trying to hold Northern Rail, Rail North, Network Rail etc. to account.

Southport Rail Transport Forum logo

They have the active campaigning support of MP’s along the line with Southport’s retiring MP John Pugh being a staunch supporter.

Departure board at Southport Station.

There is a long way to go with this campaign. The video outlines the situation well but sadly it is far from clear that the rail powers that be will fall in behind the campaigners and MP’s.