Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – time to redress 50 years of neglect!

The article below, about the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) is from the May edition of Rail User Express the newsletter of Railfuture

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Much of the committee’s time in the early part of 2014 was taken up with formulating a response to the draft West Lancashire Transport Masterplan. Useful meetings were held with both council officers and local MP’s, and the group is hopeful that many of its suggestions will be incorporated in the final Masterplan. The lack of any statement about the Southport-Wigan line was an omission; also the group wanted to see a firm commitment to carry out further studies into the merits of a south-west curve at Burscough.

OPSTA has been involved in meetings about the role of Rail North, and the development of the railway in their area – especially prospects for electrification. The group notes that Northern has been tasked to refocus on revenue collection during their franchise extension period, and OPSTA members are asked to report incidents where ticket checks are not conducted on trains. The group will be monitoring patronage of the additional service on the Ormskirk-Preston route from the May timetable change, and they’ve persuaded Northern to at least produce a cost estimate for a Sunday service on the line.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the direct Southport-Preston line, and an event in September to mark the occasion is being planned. Correspondents to OPSTAs newsletter make the point that routes to Southport have been neglected in the intervening period, not the least because the town was perversely placed in Merseyside, while the railways to the east run primarily through West Lancashire. Reinstatement of the Burscough curves would once again facilitate easier journeys between Southport and Preston.

The OPSTA stand at Preston Model Rail Club show generated a good level of interest – and 4 new members! The stand will be out again at events in June. The Friends of Meols Cop Station have started work on a new wild flower garden, despite suffering the attention of vandals earlier in the year. At Croston Station, the Friends group has been working tirelessly for three years to turn the overgrown wilderness on the disused platform into a neat and colourful garden; “before” and “after” photos on the back cover of OPSTA’s magazine amply illustrate the fantastic transformation.

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I will write about Southport’s Meols Cop Station in a future posting.

Lancashire V Sefton – Forget partnership because sadly it has become a neighbour dispute!

I have commented before about my concerns regarding this relationship. It should be good, positive and comprehensive yet sadly it is very far from that. The Council area that Sefton has the most common interest with, other than Liverpool, is the one that it seems to have the worst relationship!

My concerns have been long standing and relate to the lack of joined up thinking over health and transport going back a long way and certainly to the reorganisation of local government in 1974. With a shared hospital Trust covering Ormskirk and Southport and joint transport challenges you would have thought the two councils would have been drawn together to solve common difficulties but no; the invisible Merseyside/Lancashire boundary is, in local government terms, all but a brick wall and a tall one at that.

More recently it became apparent to anyone taking a close interest in the emerging Local Plans for Sefton and West Lancs that the expected co-operation and joint working was simply not happening beyond the odd stone being tossed over that brick wall with a message wrapped around it.

West Lancs has criticised Sefton’s draft Local Plan because Sefton has a big idea to close up the Green Belt boundary between Lydiate (in Sefton) and Aughton (in West Lancs). Similarly Sefton is cheesed off because West Lancs is to allow the building of houses bang up against the Southport (in Sefton) and Halsall(in West Lancs) boundary. This means that West Lancs gets the housing it wants but Sefton has to provide all the services for the new Halsall residents such as GP’s, schools, dentists etc.

So as you can see and indeed as I have commented about before the cooperation between these two neighbouring Councils has been and is at such a low level as to be of little use to anyone.

But then another neighbour dispute pops up if those above were not enough! This time it’s back to the joint transportation problems and it’s associated with Sefton’s response to the West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan drawn up by Lancashire County Council. Readers will recall that I have covered this quite recently but there has been a further twist in that Sefton Council (report dated 31st January) has all but given the draft Masterplan a two fingered salute! A few quotes:-

“the Council [Sefton] is disappointed that it has received no further contact or consultation from Lancashire County Council since an initial stakeholder meeting in April 2013.”

“the document makes no reference to the current configuration of health services offered by Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust.”

“On page 20 the Masterplan seems to suggest that some reduction in car traffic may occur, which does not seem consistent with the assumed growth in traffic on page 25.”

On the Masterplan’s suggestion that Southport bound traffic from the M58 be routed via Switch Island and the presently being constructed Link Road Sefton says “Sefton Council does not consider this proposal either acceptable or appropriate. The Council is disappointed that it has not been approached for any discussion about this proposal in advance of it publication.”

The response is far more detailed than the scything quotes above but you get my drift i.e. the Sefton – West Lancashire/Lanachsire County partnership is sadly becoming no more than a battleground!

Ormskirk – traffic congestion solved by the new Switch Island – Thornton Link Road!

This must rank as one of the oddest and most ridiculous things that I have come across in recent times.

Lancashire County Council must be having an off moment if they think Ormskirk’s traffic congestion is going to be resolved in any way by the building of the Switch Island – Thornton Link Road in Sefton. Apart from anything else this soon to be constructed new road is miles away from Ormskirk! Do they really think that folk driving to Southport will continue 2 more junctions down the M58 to Switch Island, in the opposite direct to Southport, and then go north again via this hugely circuitous route rather than go straight through Ormskirk?

As an excuse for not solving Ormskirk’s traffic congestion this must rank as bizarre at best yet an allegedly credible transport document for Lancashire is proposing just this. Below is a direct quote from LCC’s West Lancashire Highways and Transportation Masterplan Consultation Draft dated November 2013:-

‘a study commissioned into the M58 to Southport corridor has suggested that with the opening of the Thornton – Switch Island link, traffic reductions will mean that a bypass will no longer be the most cost effective way to solve Ormskirk’s congestion issues’

Can you imagine sat navs taking drivers on this 10 mile or more detour when the direct route from the M58 (Junction 3) is through Ormskirk and on via the A570 to Southport?