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

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 – Loss of trains to Manchester Airport and Piccadilly, seems Merseytravel has form here!

I have always been annoyed by the fact that Merseytravel, the publicly funded passenger transport committee for Merseyside, shows such little interest in the railway line from Southport to the east of the Town.

Northern Rail train standing in Southport Station.

In fact this line is of some considerable importance despite it being run as little more than a secondary line for the past 40 years or so. One of the reasons that Southport developed in the railway age was that Manchester businessmen set up home in the Town because of its excellent railway service. There can be little doubt that the fortunes of Southport are still bound up to some degree in the quality of service on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line so for Merseytravel to be less than interested in it when Southport council tax payers are helping to fund passenger transport costs via their contributions is appalling to my mind.

I helped expose Merseytravel’s could hardly care less attitude to this line during my time as a Sefton councillor when it became clear that it did not even get a mention in the original Long Term Rail Strategy for Merseyside. To some extent that battle was won but with the second iteration of that plan, published last October, the lack of targets for the line raised fears once more that the now grandly named Liverpool City Region was once more little interested in the line or indeed Southport. Indeed, my fears about City Regions sucking power towards the main city to the detriment of the surrounding towns and communities is sadly coming true and I’m not the only one to think that.

But what started this latest rant off about the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line? Well it came from my picking up a copy of the book ‘Merseyrail Electrics – The Inside Story’ by T B Maund published in October 2001. It’s book I have had a copy of for many a year but I happened upon this:-

‘To secure other reductions in expenditure on railway services, the PTE [Passenger Transport Executive] decided to give the statutory twelve months’ notice to withdraw support from some services. Notice had already been given in respect of the Southport – Manchester services……’

This decision seems to have been taken in 1977/78 and if nothing else it clearly shows that in times when money was tight the PTE were quite willing to withdraw support for the line back then. Some 40 years on it seems that lack of commitment to the needs of commuters in the north of Sefton Borough is sadly just as steadfast.

Note:- Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) and Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) are what we now know as Merseytravel.

Sefton Council’s opposition leader on Southport’s loss of rail services

Southport Station

Cllr. John Pugh the Lib Dem Leader of the opposition on Sefton Council and former MP for Southport has hit out at the loss of trains between Southport and Manchester Airport which have been proposed [in the May 2018 timetable] by Northern Trains and Network Rail.

TOWN HAS BEEN LET DOWN

Rail services to Manchester Piccadilly- the university and business sector are being pared back to two to three a day trains- there and back- with the train to Manchester Airport doomed. That’s the result of the new timetables just announced on March 21st by Northern Rail and agreed with Network Rail.

The Southport line to Wigan and Manchester is on schedule to be the only place in the north to LOSE services under Northern Powerhouse plans

Former MP, Cllr. John Pugh stated, “It is hard not feel angry with the way we have been treated and strung along. We have had warm words from Rail Ministers and the Secretary of State for Transport but the downward spiral in our services and connectivity continues just the same.

I have no confidence that Sefton Council or the Merseyside City Region has even broken sweat to fight our corner

We don’t need any more patronising waffle from the government, rail companies or anyone else. The fact is that we are being strung out to dry- a corner of the north that needs to finds its own voice.

We cannot quietly stand by and let our connections with the business quarter of Manchester and the airport just wither.

*****

Editors View:- John is obviously right and I share his skepticism about what the Liverpool City Region and its Transport arm Merseytravel have been doing or indeed not doing to both keep the present level of service on the line and promote Southport’s trains to Wigan, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport. I go back to the first draft of the first ever Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy where the line did not even get a mention! At the time I was a Sefton Councillor and I pushed the Council to demand that the line be included. That Long Term Rail Strategy has now been updated (October 2017) and surprise surprise the line hardly gets a mention at all again. Must we conclude that rail connectivity for Southport (which is in the Liverpool City Region) to the east and the north of the Town is of no interest to the powers that be? Sadly I think we must!

Southport – Wigan – Manchester Trains suffer appalling cutbacks!

A blogged yesterday about some reasonably good news (extra trains) on the Ormskirk – Preston Line, now the other side of the coin on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line where services are in effect being cut back!

Departure board at Southport Station.

Southport to Manchester Airport trains withdrawn

The current service [from Southport to Manchester] is dreadful with consistently poor punctuality, many cancellations, short forming of trains [too few carriages] and disruption of services for overrunning ‘improvement works’ (sic) and as feared the plan is to withdraw the Southport – Airport service for it to be replaced with a Stalybridge – Wigan North Western – Alderley Edge service pattern.

There will be just two morning services from Southport, departing 06.17 and 07.17, to Alderley Edge via Manchester Piccadilly and three return services in the evening:

– 17.19 departure from Piccadilly will not call at Oxford Road but will call at Deansgate.

– 18.18 departure from Piccadilly will call at Oxford Road but will not call at Deansgate.

– 21.27 departure from Piccadilly

All other services will go through Manchester Victoria to and from Leeds and Blackburn. There will be two services from Southport to Victoria departing Southport between 06.30 and 07.00.

All services will call at Gathurst and Meols Cop.

On Sundays there will be one train per hour to/from Blackburn via Victoria.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) say they will continue to fight these service reduction proposals because there’s no reason to withdraw services this year. They need community support to take the fight once again to Northern Rail and Network Rail.

My thanks to OPSTA for the information contained in this posting

Another example of the Northern Poorhouse, sorry Powerhouse?

Click on the photo to enlarge it

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.