I've done a few little diagrams to show how the situation's going to develop over the next few months.
This is the situation right now: a lovely SQUARE loop, interchange stations, trains everywhere. From the 23rd April next year, it'll change to this:
Liverpool Central will effectively be wiped off the map. Both the Northern and Wirral line platforms will be closed for refurbishment. Replacement bus services will run instead, but to be frank, you'd be better off walking. When the Loop was closed, back when I was commuting from Birkenhead Park to Crewe, I found it quicker to just walk across town than to wait for the James Street-Lime Street bus. Northern Line passengers can go onto Moorfields and change to the Wirral Line, if they really need to, to end up round by Central.
Liverpool Central will then be fully reopened on October 21st, all being well, but the works on platform 1 at James Street will continue until January 6th, 2013. Work then immediately shifts to platform 3, so people getting on a Wirral-bound train at Central won't have much chance of getting a seat.
The James Street work is due to continue until April 23rd 2013, but on April 21st Lime Street will close for business, until August 21st. The map will probably show that it's perfectly possible to walk from Lime Street to Central, but I couldn't work out a way to do that without re-jigging the map in a major fashion. It'll probably be similar to when the Grand National is on and signs appear in the streets to guide tourists to Central for the Aintree trains.
Sixteen months later, and three of the city's underground stations will have been refurbished. Moorfields and Hamilton Square will also be getting done, but the timescales haven't been specified: it's somewhere "between 2014 and 2019".
What's interesting about this to me is that they're going to close any of the other stations at all. I understood that Central would need a lot of work, but I didn't realise that the other stations would be getting this level of attention. I'm actually a bit more excited now, thinking about the level of work that can be achieved in those kind of shutdowns. Put it a different way: I am REALLY hoping that the brown plastic seats will be gone when I turn up at the new look stations.
Incidentally, my earlier post about Central has thrown up a couple of issues of its own. As Marke pointed out, the time for expanding the station is rapidly shrinking, while a shopping centre is built over the top; any reconstruction gets 1000x times more expensive the minute you can't dig down from the surface. The Echo article also alleges that platform-edge doors (PEDs) will be implemented at Central to contain the crowds. I'm taking that with a pinch of salt. When the Jubilee Line extension was built PEDs were put on all the new stations, but not on the old ones, because of difficulties with signalling equipment and the software involved. Even now, the likes of Green Park are open at platform level. I think this is one of those cases where things are talked about but will never actually happen.
"Anonymous" (why so shy? We're all friends here) also said that my Kirkby-Hunts Cross plans will never happen because of the flat crossing of the Liverpool-Manchester line. Running two such intensive services against one another would cause all sorts of hassle. This doesn't surprise me, as I basically came up with my plan by pointing at the map and working out what I'd like to happen, rather than being practical, but I have since read rumours that Network Rail has a similar idea. They're considering putting in a turnback facility somewhere beyond Liverpool South Parkway, so trains can reverse without hitting the junction in the first place. Good for the Northern Line; bad for Hunts Cross, it seems.
I'm less keen on "Anonymous"'s suggestion that staff are employed to force people along the platforms. We're British; we don't respond well to that kind of forcible behaviour. That's all a bit Japanese, and we know where that will end, with disgustingly efficient bullet trains. Members of staff should be kept behind glass screens where they belong, not manhandling the public. Unless it's that fit bloke who used to work at Birkenhead Park, in which case he can manhan[remainder of this paragraph cut for reasons of taste].