Tuesday 29 July 2014

Possibly Maybe (Part Two)

Yesterday I ran through a load of stations that might be built if Merseytravel, the Government and the Gods all get together in alignment.  The ones below need more than just a couple of platforms; they need rails, they need electrification, they need assets being transferred from one body to another.  I'm also sticking to actual, realistic plans; not ideas to build a second route under the Mersey or a High Speed Line under the airport or an undersea tunnel connecting Southport with Dublin.

Skelmersdale (Town Centre Option) - Northern Line (Kirkby Branch) extension

This is the preferred Skelmersdale extension, which I covered in much greater depth (well, as deep as this blog ever gets) in November last year.  Suffice to say, it's a pretty expensive scheme which carries a great deal of social and economic advantages, so could get funding from Central Government.  It's also in Lancashire, which means that there are two local government organisations (Lancs and Merseytravel) trying to get it done; this means added paperwork but also added money.  However, Maaaaaaarten Spaaaaaaargaren might have poured cold water on the whole idea when he suggested in this month's Modern Railways that a really fast bus to Kirkby station might be acceptable instead.

Skelmersdale (Park and Ride Option) - Northern Line (Ormskirk Branch) extension

There's always this option too.  There used to be a line from Ormskirk station to the village of Skelmersdale, long before the new town came along.  It was further south in the town than the proposed site for a Park and Ride station, but as its name indicates, Railway Road now occupies that alignment.  The Northern Line would be extended out of the top of Ormskirk station and sent through Westhead (possibly with a station if they're feeling generous) before ending up here.  This doesn't have as much of a social advantage as the Kirkby extension; people with cars already have a fast route into Liverpool via the M58 and there's a high proportion of non-car owners in Skem who wouldn't go out to the edge of town to use it.  The Ormskirk Line is also already busy, and if it was going to be extended then electrifying the line to Preston seems like a much more attractive option.  This route does have the advantage of not going into the more expensive centre of town though.

Woodchurch - Borderlands Line between Upton and Heswall

It's a perfect spot for a park and ride.  The M53 has a huge junction next to the railway line.  There are large estates at Prenton and Woodchurch who have no access to the railway at the moment.  There's a major bus corridor going right past it. There's vacant land to build it on.

The problem is, the Borderlands Line has a terrible service right now, and it doesn't go all the way into Liverpool.  Until it's electrified and brought under Merseyrail's control there's no point in building anything here.  Which is really annoying, because it's fairly close to my house.

Beechwood & Noctorum - Borderlands Line between Bidston and Upton

The same conditions apply to this station, further up the line, only the business case is worse.  The M53 here doesn't have any access on the railway side, so there's no place for a park and ride.  Where this one "wins" though is it's close to one of the most deprived wards in Britain.  It might not be economically viable but a station here would improve access to the rail network for hundreds of people and with it, their job and travel prospects.  Merseytravel are 50/50 on this one - it comes and goes from their plans for the Borderlands Line, and would probably disappear in a second if there was a budget crunch.  Which would be a real shame.

The North Mersey Branch Line

A single track runs between Bootle New Strand and Aintree stations.  Trains are a rare presence on it; only the occasional service that's been diverted to keep it in use.  It passes through Bootle's suburbs, and as such, could be added to the Merseyrail network.  Merseytravel have suggested two stations here - one at Hawthorne Road and one at Bridle Road; the latter one was originally called "Giro" in their plans, which is all sorts of awesome.  Trouble is this line doesn't really do anything useful.  It goes to Bootle, and even people in Bootle don't want to go to Bootle.  Both the lines it connects terminate in Liverpool, so the only people who'd really gain from it are the few residents of Sefton who want to go to Ormskirk, and vice versa.  It's been suggested just because it's there.  I don't often call for railway lines to be torn up, but in this case, I think it would be a lot more useful as an branch of the Trans-Pennine Cycle Route to Bootle.

The Canada Dock Branch - between Kirkdale and Edge Hill

This is a big project.  The Canada Dock Branch is currently a busy freight line passing through Tuebrook on its way to the sea.  There's been a suggestion that you could fit three or four stations in here - Edge Lane, Tuebrook and, the real prize, Anfield & Goodison.  The line passes right behind Anfield Cemetery, potentially putting a station 15 minutes walk away from the city's football stadia.  The fact that it'll also serve the busy district of Tuebrook is just a bonus.  The rails are there, so why aren't they getting on with it?

Two reasons.  The first is that this is an incredibly busy freight route.  Liverpool's port actually handles more cargo than at any other time in its history, and that railway line keeps lorries off the streets and gets stock away fast.  Slotting passenger trains into the mix - stopping passenger trains, at that - would cause headaches all round.  Certainly Merseyrail levels of service - four trains an hour - would be a nightmare.

There's also the issue of where the trains would go.  The Canada Dock Branch is a bypass: it circles round from Kirkdale to Olive Mount.  If you wanted to get on the train to Liverpool from Kirkdale, you'd take the Northern Line; two stops and you're in town.  Meanwhile, this new route into the city centre would be a line with just six stops - that's even shorter than the Kirkby Line, and without that route's potential for expansion.  You could, I suppose, run trains from Kirkdale to Manchester, which might alleviate some of the traffic at Lime Street because you'd get Northern Line passengers changing there, but would there be much of a demand?  And football trains would be incredibly popular - once or twice a week.

I'd love this one to happen, but given that they're currently building a huge new deep water port in Liverpool, I can't see them handing over any paths to passenger trains without a fight.  You'll probably be getting a Merseyrail train to Wrexham before this ever happens.

So, in conclusion: there's LOADS of potential for railway expansion in Merseyside.  I haven't even brought the Victoria and Waterloo tunnels under the city centre into the equation; they were part of the Merseyrail expansion project in the seventies and are still sitting there, full of promise.  All it needs is a bit of ambition and tonnes of cash.  Perhaps I should start a Kickstarter.  If the internet will pay for a statue of Robocop in Detroit, I'm sure it can pay for something useful.

(Nah, I'm joking.  The last thing the internet wants is useful stuff).


Anonymous said...

Mad John would be proud.

Scott Willison said...

There was no need for that.

Dan said...

If they built the stations at Headbolt Lane and Vauxhall Road, all they have to do is have revenue protection officers permanently there and the stations will have paid for themselves within the first few days of opening!

Anonymous said...

Do you pleasure yourself to mersey rail?
Cause I do and was looking for a skype ''friend'' to ya know ''chat'' with xxx

Mad John said...

I am proud of all this.

The only sane man in Liverpool