SRTF has an update on the long-running campaign to ensure that Southport and West Lancashire passengers are not disadvantaged by changes to trains into and out of Manchester. See the link above for the full update.
I have commented on this blog site many times about the importance of the Southport – Wigan – Manchester railway line but a recent reading of Nigel Dyckhoff’s book ‘Portrait of the Cheshire Lines Committee’ really does press home why this is the case.
This quote from the 5th chapter of Nigel’s book (published in 1999) says it all:-
‘Modelled on the exclusive resorts of the South of France and laid out as a garden city, Southport became known in publicity material as the ‘Montpellier of the North’. A fashionable watering place and residential area for the businessmen of Manchester and Liverpool’
Of course in 2016 we would say ‘businessperson’ but what Southport really, really needs (and soon) is the return to the fast train services into Manchester which were lost in the 1960’s. To achieve that the line needs to be electrified before we enter the next Ice Age rather than on the vague goodness knows when Network Rail timetable that presently exists.
It stands to reason, especially with our choked roads/motorways and the lack of an east/west Ormskirk road bypass, that if folks are to live in Southport and have quick and comfortable access into Manchester (like they have into Liverpool) that upgrading of the railway line has to be a top priority for the Town. It will also need a decent park and ride station on the eastern edge of Southport with a significantly large car park.
This is surely an important way of improving the economy and indeed the retail offer of Southport. It will mean that wealth generated in Manchester can more easily be spent in Southport by people who depend on their income by working in Manchester but who love to live by the sea in Southport.
It’s really not rocket science just a look back to the way Southport used to be so much better rail connected to Manchester.
The present campaign to save the Southport rail services into Manchester Piccadilly is of course an important part of developing better rail access to Manchester from Sefton Borough’s tourism Town. The work of OPSTA, Southport Rail Transport Forum and John Pugh MP is vital but where are Merseytravel and Sefton Council in all this?
Merseytravel had to be dragged into including the Southport – Manchester Line in its Long Term Rail Strategy not so long ago but credit to them for accepting the arguments put forward at the time. But if Southport is to flourish as Merseyside’s tourism capital, which is surely in all our interests, then we will need to see some real, determined and positive campaigning by our Sub-Regional Transport Body and Borough Council, potentially over a number of years, to make serious change happen.
Without an electrified railway offering fast services into Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria Stations Southport will not be able to regain what it once had and so desperately needs. Just read that quote above once more; the railway answer to Southport’s eastern transport link problems is all to obvious!
The petition available via the link above is well worth supporting as we try to stop Arriva Trains Northern/Network Rail and other public bodies making all Southport – Wigan – Manchester trains go into Manchester Victoria Station.
Presently around half go into Manchester Piccadilly Station which is far more convenient for commuters working in Manchester.
Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association) and MP’s representing constituencies along the this line, such as John Pugh (Southport), Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) etc. are all backing the campaign. The petition started by Lisa Nandy MP (Wigan) is a part of that campaign and I urge folk to sign it.
A return to that knotty problem of the railway powers that be making all trains from Southport, Burscough, Parbold etc. run into Manchester Victoria Station from 2017. A bad idea if ever I heard one as it is clear that rail travellers on the line want half the trains to continue to go through to Manchester Piccadilly as they do now.
The campaign to get Network Rail, Rail North and Arriva Rail North to reverse their decision recently came to a head with local MP’s leading the charge with OPSTA and Southport Rail Transport Forum etc.
To say the MP’s were unimpressed with what they heard is putting it too politely. Here’s what Rosie Cooper Labour MP for West Lancashire thinks:-
And here’s a report on events from Southport Rail Transport Forum:-
Looks to me as though Southport, West Lancashire and Wigan rail travellers have been shafted by a rail industry that did not consult them before it made the decision and has not backed off since. Who are our railways being run for? The convenience of the rail industry or for the ticket buying passengers? It seems we know the answer!!
Loss of Piccadilly/ Airport Services under the New Franchise –
Arriva Rail North took over the Northern franchise from 1st April 2016 with a plan to divert our Piccadilly and airport services to Manchester Victoria from December 2017.
Since the last newsletter, OPSTA has been running the Make Your Voice Heard campaign in collaboration with the Southport Rail Transport Forum (SRFT), North West Manchester Stations Alliance (NWMSA) and station and community groups around Wigan.
While we felt the evidence of numbers we provided had made an impression, it would need real life and community impact if we were to convince the incoming train operator and the transport authorities, namely Rail North, Merseytravel, Lancashire County Council and Transport for Greater Manchester that the plan is wrong.
We have managed this through website, (www.opsta.org) social media: twitter (@opsta15 #gotopicc) and facebook (southportrailtransportforum), and the traditional methods of press, posters and flyers.
We asked rail users to petition individually by sending an e mail or writing a letter and hundreds have done so. Now the rail company and transport authorities know they cannot simply ignore this.
At the commencement of the new franchise, in reply to passenger objections and a body of evidence, Northern (the operational management) stated they would look at timetables in detail and consult but made no commitment to modify the plan to retain the direct service to Piccadilly. The Chair of Rail North also committed to hold the operator to its promise to conduct a review of plans but he placed this in a context of benefits that will result from the Ordsall Chord/ Northern Hub, electrification and new franchise.
Now in the second month of its franchise, Northern has become almost mute, Northern (Arriva Rail North) seem to be heavily under pressure in getting the new franchise organised which may explain their lack of communication. Or is it possibly because many passengers comprehensively deconstructed their initial response, not least the suggestion that a change at Salford Crescent would be reasonable? Their position remains ‘it’s being looked at’ with no time frame on when we will hear more.
In total contrast with the rail company and Rail North, any and all local authorities and business groups that the campaign group speaks to, immediately recognise the seriousness of the issue and act on it.
Wigan MBC quickly flagged its concerns with the plans and noted its formal objection stating the case from their part of Greater Manchester. On 21st April Sefton MBC gave its full support to a motion to state clearly its objection to the loss of service, expressing concern at the serious economic impact if the plan went ahead.
On the same evening OPSTA presented to the Local Association of local councils which comprises all parish councils in traditional West Lancashire and they unanimously gave their full backing to the campaign; active support and interventions had already come from many of them.
We have been working with many of our MPs who have been galvanised by their growing personal case files and are taking action.
Friends of Hindley station conducted ‘our’ survey at their station in March; the communities east of Wigan were now getting concerned and involved.
Recently completed platform surveys and counts by the Friends of Westhoughton station established that half of their travellers use the line for stations on the Piccadilly/ Airport route. We have now identified that 650 daily commuters will be seriously and adversely affected by the loss of
service. In order to obtain the complete view, on June 8th and 9th we will conduct a morning commuter survey at Wigan Wallgate and then report figures for all stations. Furthermore, while huge numbers need the service for work and education, the surveys at Westhoughton were extended through the morning and their findings reinforced passenger feedback, this is not just an issue for commuters.
NEXT PHASE OF THE CAMPAIGN
In June we will be seeking passenger participation again in Making Our Voice Heard with a fresh emphasis.
This will be ahead of a proposed meeting with the MPs for Southport, West Lancs, Wigan and Makerfield; Rail North; Northern and our local transport authorities (anticipated 1st July).
Where do our transport authorities stand?
TfGM says the matter can be looked at but so far has made no commitment. Merseytravel has not offered much more although working with Sefton Councillor Gordon Friel who is Vice Chair at Merseytravel he should have
influence and has continued to voice his support. Lancashire County Council has stated it will support us and evidently is taking some action in this respect.
The bottom line – Northern, our transport authorities and Rail North must be made to understand it is wrong to withdraw our Piccadilly service and we are not going to let this go.
Should you wish to raise an objection now while we press for meaningful dialogue and resolution visit our website www.opsta.org to see how you can make your voice heard – it is very quick and easy. If you use Twitter please
comment using #gotopicc and Campaign for Better Transport’s #railwoes. Or if Facebook is your social medium, have a look at southportrailtransportforum.
I have posted before about the need for Southport’s train service to the east of the Town i.e. via Wigan to Manchester to be upgraded. Yes there are long-term plans to electrify the line but that will not happen for some years. However, there is a shorter term threat that Merseytravel, the public sector transport body for Merseyside, needs to address which I fear it is not doing.
I refer to the threat to stop Southport trains running into Manchester Piccadilly Station and indeed onto Manchester Airport. The plan by Arriva who will take over the Northern rail Franchise very soon seems to be to take all Southport – Manchester trains into Manchester Victoria and some on to Yorkshire.
The campaign to try to stop this is being run by Southport Rail Transport Forum, OPSTA and John Pugh MP but where are Merseytravel in this scrum? What are they doing to back the Southport campaigners? Why are they so quiet on the matter? Do you think if Liverpool was to have a rail service threatened they would take such a low profile?
Come on Merseytravel let’s see you taking stand rather than a back seat. You can’t leave the fight to others you are supposed to be the Transport leaders for all of Merseyside.