Christmas shopping: don't you just love it? Well, no actually. It's expensive, it's difficult, it's time consuming. If you go into town to buy things, you end up being wedged into queue after queue and have to spend most of your time avoiding the urge to smack various people in the face. Then you get home and find that you bought the wrong things anyway, but by that point you no longer care, so Auntie Barbara gets that Girls of the Playboy Mansion skinny t-shirt even if she is 94 because you can't be bothered going out and getting her a replacement. And then you have to wrap the bloody things, which takes about four hours, so that someone can rip the paper off in ten seconds and discard all your hard work in the recycling. Christmas shopping is clearly rubbish.
So, like many sensible people, I turned to the wonders of the internet to do my shopping. Marvellous; sat in bed in my pants buying things without a care in the world, sipping on a cup of tea and noshing on digestives. Infinitely preferable.
Until it comes to receiving the hundreds of packages, at which point the system rather falls down. So this morning, little red card in hand, I had to drag myself out in the wind and rain to make my way to Prenton sorting office to pick up my Godson's Christmas present. Since I now have the stirrings of a cold, I hope the little darling is suitably appreciative.
It did give me a chance to take a few photos of Merseyrail's possible future, however. Back when I finished the Borderlands Line, in October, I didn't really go into the electrification plans for it. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this line running from Wrexham to Bidston would be a whole lot more useful - and profitable - if the trains could carry on through Birkenhead and into Liverpool city centre. Unfortunately, since the line is diesel only - and diesel trains are prevented from running on the Loop - that's never going to happen.
Bringing the line into the Merseyrail network is a priority for Merseytravel and the other stakeholders along its length. There have been various studies into it which have concluded that yes, it would be a fantastic idea, but have you seen how much it will cost? The estimates in the last study were a lot more than anyone expected, and so everyone looked a bit embarrassed and shuffled off.
The basic plan would see the line continue as it is, just with Merseyrail trains instead of Arriva ones, calling at the existing stations. However, one new station will almost certainly be built with electrification, and that's the one at Woodchurch. This is the station site down the road from the sorting office; hence why I had all that pre-amble about Christmas, and hence why I had a look at the proposed site this morning.
The reason Woodchurch is such a priority for the new line can be summed up in one word: interchange. It has the potential to be a real boon, and possibly one of the busiest stations on the Wirral, once it's completed.
At the moment, admittedly, it doesn't look like much.
However, look to the left, and you see this:
Look to the right, and you see this:
That's the A552, or the Woodchurch Road, pretty much the main east-west road on the Wirral. It runs from Birkenhead town centre, through Prenton (with Tranmere Rovers and the local shopping centre), past the Woodchurch estate before ending up at Arrowe Park Hospital. It's one of the main bus corridors on the whole peninsular, and is always busy. Apart from when I take a picture obviously.
In short, stick a nice park and ride here, and you could get traffic off the motorway, traffic off the local streets, and a new bus interchange into the bargain. You'd also bring Merseyrail services to Prenton, one of the very few areas this side of the Mersey that doesn't have a handy rail service into Liverpool. Everyone's a winner baby, that's no lie.
The potential station is such a no-brainer, and such an asset, that Merseytravel have even considered just electrifying the couple of miles to reach here, terminating the Wrexham trains even further away from Liverpool. Understandably, the councils in Wales are less keen on that idea, and are working with the PTE to try and get the whole line done at once.
Given the huge costs involved, it won't happen for a few years at least. There's a debate about whether third rail electrification (like the rest of Merseyrail) is what's needed, or whether it would be better to have overhead electrification with new rolling stock capable of going on both types. Merseytravel have even floated the idea of the diesel trains terminating on the currently unused platform at James Street, and therefore not having to go through the Loop at all, as an "on the cheap" way of doing it. Whichever way it happens, it would be good to see the network expand, especially with a nice gleaming station just down the road from me...
(By the way, to get these photos, I had to walk across this footbridge:
Given that I suffer from vertigo, I hope you realise the sacrifice I made for you, gentle readers. It was also blowing a gale which whipped at my coat and made me think I was about to be hurled onto the motorway. It was utterly terrifying. You see what I do for you people?)