Saturday 18 April 2009

A Little Bit Loopy


The Liverpool Loop – that wonder of engineering that sweeps under the city’s streets, from James Street to Moorfields to Lime Street to Central and James Street again – is closed right now, and will be for a few weeks.  Network Rail are doing some major track maintenance, so for this period, passengers from the Wirral have to get off at James Street, whether they like it or not.

This has caused some consternation and anger on the Peninsula side.  Last week’s Wirral Globe shouted “RETURN TO RAIL CHAOS” and got vox pops from various disgruntled locals.  Mum of two Samantha Risdale, 32, of Town Lane, Bebington, said “Journeys just take so much longer.  It’s the worst time to do this kind of work, there’s so many people wanting to travel over the Bank Holiday weekend and take advantage of the days off”.DSC01150

As I am a cynical, miserable, glass half empty kind of person , you’d expect me to join in with her groans.  I’m not going to though, because, frankly, this is the price you pay if you want a railway that works and is safe.  Complaining about track maintenance is just a dumb thing to do, as far as I’m concerned.  I’d like Network Rail to say, “fair enough, we won’t maintain the track.  Remember this when the train derails.”  And Samantha, when would be a good time to do this?  If you rule out Bank Holidays, then you have to do it when people are going to work; if you do it at the weekend, it’s when people are going shopping.  I think what you meant was, “It’s the worst time to do this kind of work, as I had planned on using the train.  Can Network Rail consult me on my travel plans next time?”  I find it so depressing when people’s default setting is “complain”.  Yes, it’s inconvenient.  I now have to get an earlier train in the morning, so I can get my connection to Crewe.  I can no longer carry on reading my book in transit between the over and underground stations.  I work up a bit of a sweat as I pound across town.

DSC01149But… now I get nights like Friday night.  I got off at Lime Street, and wandered across town in balmy sunshine.  I walked past the mighty, beautiful St George’s Hall.  I cut through Queen’s Square, where people were sat at tables drinking wine and chatting.  Then down Whitechapel, which looks so much better since the Met Quarter opened, and onto the junction with Church Street.  A hen party had appropriated the services of a busker there, and the bride was belting out “When You Say Nothing At All” to encouraging cheers from the shoppers.  There was a lad getting arrested outside Debenhams, and getting into a police car; I don’t know what he was being arrested for, but he looked pretty sheepish about it.  At Derby Square, I crossed by the road works, as the Big Dig is turning its attention to the paving here; Queen Victoria’s going to get some decent stone surroundings, and an outline of the old Liverpool castle will be inlaid into the ground.  Hopefully it’ll cheer up the miserable old bag, but I doubt it.  And finally I was into the station itself, now finished and gleaming.  A train was waiting on the platform, and I was whisked under the river, home to Birkenhead Park, where I got to walk home through the sunshine and trees.

It’s exciting and different.  If I had to do it every day, forever, the novelty would probably wear off, but it’s just for six weeks.  Six weeks where I get to have a wander through the city centre, which is great, because Liverpool looks bloody marvellous now.  Sorry Samantha from Bebington.  You’re on your own there, love.

Friday 3 April 2009

Art on the Underground


This rather natty, rather interesting, poster was waiting at Birkenhead Park for me the other day. I quote:

Merseytravel is offering residents the chance to be involved in enhancing the journey experience by creating your very own piece of art to go on display at Merseytravel’s facilities near you.

What a fantastic idea! I’m a big supporter of the transport networks putting funding into the arts. The London Underground – my first love when it comes to urban rail networks (sorry Merseyrail) – has a long and distinguished history of design and graphic excellence. It’s more than just the iconic Diagram; it’s also the unified corporate world, the innovative posters, the elegant architecture, and of course the Art on the Underground project. Not only is it a great idea to have publicly funded bodies providing support for day to day beauty in people’s lives, but it also gives bored commuters something to stare at.

Big, big problem with Liverpool’s scheme though.

For more information and to download your entry form check out our website

Well Merseytravel, it’s five days since I first saw the poster, and there’s not a sign of this project on your website. Admittedly, it’s had a redesign since I was last there, so perhaps you’re all sweating buckets over a pile of hot HTML, but putting posters up to advertise a resource, and then forgetting the resource? CORPORATE FAIL.

It’s so disappointing when you try to be nice about someone and they let you down. To cheer us all up, let’s look at some nice horses:


Merseytravel have commissioned artist Janet Shearer to paint this to commemorate the Grand National, and there are posters of it in the subway to Lime Street. The design is taken from a 9 x 5m original at Liverpool South Parkway, which is bonkers for a couple of reasons: (1) 45 square metres of painting is just mad, and (2) there will be approximately 3 people using LSP as a means of getting to Aintree, so its value as a promotional device is pretty non-existent. Still, as I say, big thumbs up to Merseytravel for commissioning it in the first place, when they could have spent the money on a bus shelter or something. I might have to get off the train a stop early next week when I’m on the trip home so I can see it in all its mad, oversized glory.

EDIT: Robert has found the entry form - not through the website (heaven forfend!) but through a Google search. Which is fucking GENIUS, obviously. Anyway, here it is - if any reader wins, I want a credit!