Bidston – Wrexham Line and its new rolling stock

We may still be in lockdown and being advised not to use public transport if at all possible but one day we’ll get past this health crisis and be able to ride trains and buses once more.

Being a railway enthusiast I try to keep an eye on what is happening across Merseyside and was interested to pick up on the latest developments for the Borderlands Line between Bidston and Wrexham which is now operated by Transport for Wales.

We knew that new Class 230 train units, with the ability to run on battery power, were being supplied for the route by Vivarail so news of the testing of these units seemingly being successful is obviously welcome. Here are a couple of links about the new units and their testing:-

vivarail.co.uk/first-trip-on-230006/

vivarail.co.uk/new-images-of-230006-on-the-mainline/

Quote from Vivarail website article ‘the UK’s first battery hybrid being built for Transport for Wales to operate the Borderlands (Wrexham-Bidston) line. The train is powered by 2 batteries on each driving car with 4 gensets on the middle car to charge the batteries and as a secondary source of traction.’

In the medium to long term I still hold the view that this line should become a part of the Merseyrail network.

My thanks to Jonathan Cadwallader for the lead to this posting.

OPSTA – Another report from the pages of Rail User Express

Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – two cars better than one!

It’s ironic that OPSTA should be celebrating the allocation of much-criticised 2-car Pacer units to the Ormskirk-Preston Line, but they say this does restore much-needed seating capacity – the group has long argued that the single-car Class 153 units are inadequate and effectively suppress demand.

With new housing nearby, the numbers using Burscough Junction are growing and OPSTA is continuing to carry out passenger counts. Results from the Burscough Demand Study, commissioned by Merseytravel, are eagerly awaited, but in the meantime OPSTA has been invited to a meeting to go through the findings.

The group is confident that the campaign to retain booking office facilities at Burscough Bridge will prove to have been a success.

OPSTA is working with the Southport Rail Transport Forum to secure the best possible deal for the Southport-Manchester rail service in the new Northern franchise. The two groups are planning another platform survey at selected stations along the route in the autumn – an impressive 75% sample rate was achieved in last year’s survey.

Campaigners are pleased that new customer-information screens have been fitted at various stations on the route.

OPSTA’s committee has been invited to participate in a service-development exercise to be hosted by Transport for Greater Manchester.

Northern Rail is taking the issue of fare collection very seriously and has recruited additional revenue-protection staff. However, the company’s claim that ticketless travel is at 6% and falling is disputed by OPSTA and other groups who fear this is a gross under-estimation. The group has set up a dedicated email address for members to report instances of poor revenue protection.

Another issue for concern has been lineside litter, scrap metal and rampant vegetation – the group acknowledges that Network Rail has made some effort this year to tackle the situation.

Four OPSTA members attended Vivarail’s presentation of their refurbished “D” train at Long Marston and found the experience thought-provoking: “nothing indicates this cannot work and a solid engineering approach means Vivarail deserves to succeed, but a lot of work is still required to prove it can.” The question as to whether the units will be suited to rail services for Ormskirk, Preston and Southport remains to be answered.

Some provocative articles in the previous issue of OPSTA’s magazine “Connections” have stirred up correspondence from members – the Editor is very pleased to have received a number of “impassioned responses”!