How Preston’s transport plan could benefit Southport & the Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Line

The graphic above*, which you will need to click on to enlarge for reading, is an extract from the recently published Preston City Transport Plan. It’s an important document because it discusses much needed transport, in this case rail, improvements to the south and west of Preston.

If you look closely the document is promoting the re-connection of the Burscough North Curve so that trains can once again travel between Preston and Southport. This is what the curves looked like when they were in place in the 1960’s:-

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

OPSTA, the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travelers Association has been promoting the re-connection of the Burscough Curves since the 1980’s and they have been the driving force behind improving the Ormskirk – Preston Line and the reopening of Midge Hall Station. But it’s been an uphill struggle with Lancashire County Council (the Transport Authority) seeming being at best lukewarm about the line the present train operator (Northern) struggling to deliver the present basic service reliably.

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Northern trains meet.

Another way forward is for Merseyrail to run trains all the way from Liverpool Central to Preston via the removal of the buffer stops at Ormskirk and other signaling/track improvements. To me this has always been the most sensible solution to bring the Ormskirk – Preston Line up to its true potential, together of course with the introduction of Southport – Preston trains. The fact that some of Merseyrail’s soon to arrive Class 777 Stadler rolling stock will now have battery operation facility (this had been in doubt previously) then them operating on the line without the need for expensive electrification equipment opens up real opportunities.

A mock-up of a Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Graphic Notes:-
* ‘P’ is Preston – Numbers 2, 3 & 6 are points along the Ormskirk – Preston Railway Line – 2 is the proposed new Coote Lane Station – 3 being the proposed reopening of Midge Hall Station and 6 is where the connecting Burscough Curves are situated i.e. where the Ormsirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan lines cross each other.

Nodding Donkeys – The Pacer, a bus on railway wheels, is still sadly with us

A Pacer at Preston Station

I came across the You Tube video (see link below) pretty much by chance even though it’s on a matter I have blogged about a number of times before i.e. the infamous ‘Nodding Donkeys’ of the railway world made from bus bodies and freight van trucks. However Southport rail campaigner Eric Woodcock is on the video explaining in straight forward terms how the much derided Pacer trains came about. It’s an interesting watch……

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucA5xIgjZBc

Inside a down at heel Pacer on the Ormskirk Preston Line

My good friend and former MP for Southport John Pugh campaigned to rid us of these terrible trains and here’s a link back to his work on the matter:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/07/pacers-are-thankfully-on-their-last-legs-or-is-that-wheels/

Southport Corporation Transport – A surprising find in Manchester’s Heaton Park

I’ve blogged about Southport’s long gone tramways previously. Here are a few links back to my previous postings about them and Southport Corporation Transport:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/01/12/southports-tramways/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/07/27/southport-its-former-horse-trams/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/03/southport-looking-back-to-1967-and-the-county-boroughs-centenary-celebrations/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/07/13/birkdale-its-tramway-into-southport-an-historic-photo/

The reason I return to this subject now is that I’ve recently visited the volunteer preserved tramway in Manchester’s Heaton Park. This lovely little tramway is well worth a visit (check when it’s open before travelling) but sadly soon after we visited they had some overhead cantenary cable stolen which curtailed their ability to run their heritage trams. The good news is that Manchester Metrolink has stepped in to get them up and running again.

A preserved Blackpool tram at Heaton Park Tramway, Manchester.

However, I digress. If you take a close look at the photo at the head of this posting or this one

you will realise the buttons are from Southport Corporation Transport. They were on the uniform of the ticket inspector on one of the Heaton Park Heritage trams. Small world indeed.

The Blackpool tram shot is also amongst my Flickr photos at:-

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

Southport – Its Victorian legacy has not been fully understood by modern custodians

Place North West has an interesting and thought provoking article on its website – see link below:-

www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/my-place-southport/

In my view Southport suffers from two distinct and unique disadvantages. Firstly, of being at one far end of a Metropolitan Borough (Sefton) whilst being mostly surrounded by a County (Lancashire) it no longer (since 1974) has any significant political connections with. Secondly, of having some very poor road and rail connections to the east and north of it.

If you start from the premise that the modern custodians have failed then I feel the disadvantages which have been put in their way are very much the cause. What’s more they’ve not been self-created disadvantages but very much imposed ones from Beeching’s railway cut backs of the 1960’s, the lack of an Ormskirk road by-pass, and the reorganisation of local government in 1974. The fact that none of theses significant downsides for Sunny Southport have been successfully addressed is the ongoing challenge which the present day custodians can’t crack – although that’s not for the want of trying.

I’ve commented on this so tough to crack conundrum previously:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/06/southport-betting-on-a-bright-future-for-our-local-seaside-town/

My view is that Southport has been failed but the causes of that failure are very much external to the Town.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

A history of Sefton Borough’s Communities

Whilst searching for the of the term origin of ‘Yort’ a while back (see my posting of 23 07 19 ‘Formby – What is a Yort?’) I happened upon this fascinating document by the Museum of Liverpool & English Heritage on the internet:-

Sefton Historic Settlement Study – Merseyside Historic Characterisation Project from 2011

www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/archaeology/historic-characterisation-project/Sefton-Part-6.pdf

Here’s the introduction to the 84 page document:-

Introduction to Historic Settlement Study

The aim of the historic settlement study was to produce a consistent pro-forma template of information on settlements identified across all the historical townships in all 5 districts of Merseyside as based on the relevant paper First Edition Ordnance Survey 6” to 1 mile maps for Lancashire (published 1848 -1851) and Cheshire (1881 – 1882) . The purpose was to help provide background information for the data capture of character area polygons and also bring together some information on known or highlight other historic settlements, many of which have been lost or disguised by urban development. It was also thought that information would be useful for alerting to areas of possible archaeological interest to support the development management advice given by Merseyside Archaeological Advisory Service to the five districts. Historic urban settlement character is one of the key priority areas for research within Merseyside and one for which there is currently least documented archaeological evidence.

What a useful historic database this is for those wanting to know more about the origins of their own Sefton community. Go on find where you lived and get to know more about it………

Southport and Sainsburys – A saga from which Southport’s Lord Street shopping center can only lose from surely?

Southport’s famous Lord Street shops

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/taking-long-new-sainsburys-store-16665281

Looking up – Some of Lord Street’s frontages are quite beautiful but empty shop units are a worry.