Monday 28 July 2014

Possibly Maybe (Part One)

Back in June the Echo carried a piece about "30 new railway stations being considered across Merseyside."  It's a very vague, finger in the air piece about Merseytravel thinking about spots that could potentially maybe be suitable for new stations; in fact, I'm only mentioning it now because it's been a slow month for railway station collecting.

This doesn't mean there are 30 new stations on the drawing board, by the way; that would be pretty preposterous, and would probably involve everyone in Liverpool having a platform in their back yard.  Some of these locations are for existing stations, or are duplicates for other spots.  Merseytravel are keeping their cards close to their chest - presumably so land owners don't suddenly whack up the prices of spots by railway lines to try and bilk the local authority.

Bearing all that in mind, I've done a very rough run down of where I reckon some of these stations are going to be, and what I think are the chances of anything actually happening.  The key thing to remember in all of this is - don't get your hopes up.

Maghull North - Northern Line, between Maghull and Town Green

I'm putting this one first, because there's actually a planning application in for it.  The site in Maghull between School Lane and Park Lane was marked down by the Government as a spot for a new prison, but following the cuts, the site's been given over to the Homes and Communities Agency for 370 new homes.  Part of that application includes the safeguarding of a site for Maghull North railway station, a park and ride for the commuters in West Lancashire.  It's a good spot and could be a big success.  Pretty sure this one will happen before the end of the decade which, in British transport terms, is practically tomorrow.

Town Meadow - Wirral Line, between Moreton and Meols

There have been proposals for a station at Town Meadow for thirty years, and Merseytravel's studies constantly show that it would be fairly well used.  There's a significant gap between Moreton and Meols and there's a big housing estate that's currently served by buses only.  Problem is, it's a relatively affluent area, so the figures for potential usage aren't dynamite, just ok, and the land to the north of the railway line is empty marshland and farms which are protected from development by the council.  The business case for it isn't that great as a result.  Rumours of its construction rear their head now and then, usually around election time, so it's still on the list.  Personally I hope it's never built because I like the run of three M stations on that stretch of the Wirral Line (Moreton, Meols, Manor Road) and Town Meadow would break it up.

Vauxhall - between Moorfields and Sandhills

The stretch of line between Sandhills and Moorfields is a surprisingly long one without any stops.  The train passes, on one side, a network of cul-de-sacs and redbrick housing, and on the other, industrial units and the giant brick edifice of the Stanley Dock.  It's a busy area but not a commuter area.  Though the Stanley Dock is finally being redeveloped into a hotel and spa complex, there's no call for the station at the present time; the residents in those little Brookside Closes have plenty of buses on the Stanley and Vauxhall Roads.  It'll also be an expensive station, as the whole line is on a viaduct here.

Also it's called Vauxhall and, last time I looked, there was already a Vauxhall station, so I can't in all conscience endorse this plan.

St James - Northern Line between Central and Brunswick

I've talked about this station a couple of times before, the last time in November 2012, and while everyone agrees it's a great idea to reopen this mothballed-for-a-century station below Parliament Street, no-one actually has any money to do it.  Even the redevelopment of the Cains Brewery Site next door - a plan which will greatly increase the number of residents and visitors to the area, if it ever gets built - didn't involve a windfall for the council.  The developers were let off £800,000 of Community Infrastructure payments, reducing it from £1.2 million to £400,000, because it would "threaten the viability of the development".  P.S.  Planning permission was granted in November 2013; nothing has happened since.

Carr Mill - City Line between St Helens Central and Garswood

Another one that looked like a certainty until a couple of years ago, Carr Mill would serve a large residential population in the north of St Helens who don't currently have access to the railway.  This one's been banjaxed by a different kind of railway investment - the line's currently being electrified, and that's taking priority.  You can't really talk about a new station until all that's done.

Headbolt Lane - Northern Line between Kirkby and Rainford

Headbolt Lane would have been an "on the cheap" extension; Merseytravel had access to some 3rd rail equipment they bought off a bloke in London which meant they could get the Kirkby Line (whose timetable has a lot of slack in it) a little bit further on to serve a new market.  Again, events overtook it; the economic value of extending the line for just one station seemed inadequate when proposals to send the line to Skelmersdale appeared.  If the Skem extension is built, this'll probably come with it, but not before.

Kew - Manchester-Southport Line between Meols Cop and Bescar Lane

There was a station called Kew Gardens on the old line from Southport to Altcar (it seems unoriginal names are a habit on Merseyside).  That line closed to passengers in the thirties, and the site has since been redeveloped into a retail park.  Which means it's actually an ideal spot for a park and ride to take visitors into Southport, so there's a suggestion to build a new station.  For it to be really effective though the line would have to enjoy a much better service than it currently gets, so that you can dump your car without having to check a timetable first.

Wavertree & Greenbank Park - City Line between Edge Hill and Mossley Hill

These two stations have been proposed to fill the long gap between the city centre and Mossley Hill.  They're among densely packed streets full of people, with important local centres and the big Liverpool parks nearby.  There were actually two stations here before - Wavertree and Sefton Park - but they were closed when the line was electrified.  And it's that electrification which stops them from making a comeback; this is the main route to Warrington, Manchester and London, so slipping in a couple more stations would hold things up.  I'd love these stations to make a comeback, personally, because they're exactly the right place for commuters to live.  Also, it's been suggested that the Greenbank Park station should actually be sited on Penny Lane, and the Japanese tourists would go insane for that.

Otterspool - Northern Line between St Michaels and Aigburth

Another long gone station they might bring back to life, Otterspool would serve the Promenade and the Festival Gardens, plus the many homes that have sprung up along here.  There's plenty of room to build it, but all that parkland means it's never going to get very densely populated.  St Michael's and Aigburth also serve the area pretty well, and a new station would inevitably end up taking traffic away from them.

Those are the stations I could come up with on existing lines; I'll do another post where I cover the ones that will need a much larger investment in the railways themselves before they can go ahead.

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