Thursday 26 January 2023

Is It A Train? No, It's A Bus! (Part 2)

 Publishing Bludner! (Again)
Well, it said it was published on the fbb phone but said it wasn't on the fbb laptop. Sadly your blogging genius (!!) did not spot the error until alerted by correspondent Andrew at 0930 yesterday. fbb's usual BFWE (Blog Failure Warning Equipemnt - i.e. Sheffield Correspondent Dave must have been having a lie-in - he usually emails at about 0530!).

For those who missed yesterday's posting, the whole blog is repeated after today's episode.

And so ...

It'll  Be A Gem, New Rails to Skem
The idea is to build a brand new branch off the discontinuous Liverpool to Wigan line ...
... which would need to be rejoined at Kirkby station. The proposed route seems to be as guessed from the map below.
The track would run via Holland Moss with the Pimbo Industrial Estate on its eastern flank ...
... then through the "green gap".
There does seem to be plenty of so pace where land has been "reserved" for making the road into a dual carriageway,
The Council (not sure which one?) has already bought a redundant building ...
... as a likely station site.
The "college" (a posh name for a Secondary School) was closed due to falling rolls.
(Thinks : aren't falling rolls the sort of thing you would want at a sports college?)
Anyway, here is Google Earth's view of the "college" remains (lower left) ...
... and the town centre, upper right. There are also indicative plans to upgrade the town centre, so  a train bus interchange would be a jolly good idea. The current bus station, part of the shopping centre, is hardly lavish!
So the plans seem well prepared. Indeed some organisations are already publicising the new line!

Exciting, eh?
There would appear to be some inconsistency in costings.

Two of the four trains an hour at Kirkby will extend to serve Skelmersdale.
There are also proposals for an hourly service via Wigan to Manchester.

But there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that work has already started on Headbolt Lane station to the east of Kirkby.
It looks very pretty.
But it does mean that trains will be a bit closer to Skelmersdale so the cost will be reduced.

But there's bad news. Notwork Rail have decided that although millions could be electrocuted on the Southern Region of Britains railways and several hundred thousand can be electrocuted on the Merseyrail network, the good folk who live near the one mile extension from Kirkby to Headbolt Lane must be protected at all costs.

So the trains will have to run on batteries. But that means that the shiny new Merseyrail trains ...
... about to enter passenger service, will all have to be retro-fitter with batteries at vast extra cost, just to get to Headbolt Lane and later, presumably, to Skem.

That process will be vastly more expensive than extending the third rail.


There are other considerations which are worrying the planners. Will the trains be able to get to Skelmersdale and back to fit in with the 15 minute frequency at Kirkby? If not, there will be problems with what will be a single track section.

But there is a bigger problem.
The Government won't pay the bills

It is all part of the policy of (NOT?) levelling up "The North" and (NOT?) encouraging the move away from cars and on to trains.

Well done Rishi and chums!

Rosie, of course, is from the other lot!
She has recently resigned as MP for West Lancashire and there is a by-elelction comng up on February 9th.

But, do not be too dismayed about the failure of the rail pan, Rosie and the Skemmers, A new express bus service has started this very week. Enter Stagecoach route 319.

fbb will examine the new service tomorrow.

 Next Skelmersdale blog : Friday 27th January 


Yesterday's blog repeated
for those that missed it between 0200 and 0930

From A New Town Via Newtown to Seaport

Back then, the BBC was not full of originality for its fictional place names. Aidensfield (ITV Heartbeat)? Fine? Emmerdale (ITV)? Great! Wetherfield (ITV Corrie)? Appropriate considering the weather! Walford (BBC 'Enders)? Believable! Angleton (BBC Newcomers)? Hmmm.

Z-Cars was set in the Merseyside community of Newtown with occasional forays into nearby Seaport. Oft referenced, however, was The A580 East Lancs Road.
The M58 had not been invented way back then.

Our tale centres on another new town a little north and east of Kirkby, the Newtown of John Watt and Charlie Barlow.

fbb refers to Skelmersdale, known locally as Skem. This was Skem in the 1930s.
... and this is today!
You would be harf-pressed to find the original village in the map above. But here it is - more like was - slightly to the east of the north south orange road.
Blaguegate, just about decipherable from the 1930s map, is the clue. 

And Skem had a railway station.
This is looking north towards a level crossing on the red road (map below).
The orange road in today's map is built on the line of the railway.

Now, all that remains is the Railway Tavern (looking South), seen peeping out from behind the station building in the old picture above (to the left of the footbridge).
And here it its location on a map supplied on-line by "Disused Stations".
This former route crossed and juncted with the line between Liverpool and Wigan at Rainford Junction, now just an un-junctioned place name!
There is a line of scrub north of the junction ...
... whilst southbound the track bed is designated as a linear park ..
 ... i.e footpath and cycleway with bushes, right though to the southern edge of Rainford itself.
This was Rainford Junction ...
... looking west with lines to Skelmersdale and Ormskirk veering right ...
... todays remaining line to Liverpool going straight on and the route to St Helens off to the left. Note, for reference, there was no curve to Skem from the Liverpool direction.

Well, the footbridge and signal box  are still there ...
... and the station is now called just Rainford. 
It used to be a great place for Pacers ...
... and, once upon a time, through trains ran from Liverpool to Wigan.
Now you have to change at Kirkby ...
... where there is a physical gap, appropriately buffer stopped, between the electrics from Liverpool and the diesels to Wigan.
But Lancashire County Council wants to extend the electric rails to Skelmersdale by turning left somewhere near the former Rainford Junction.

Excited blog readers should read-on tomorrow!

To add to the excitement, Kirkby has a bus interchange.

Limmattalbhn A P.S.
fbb forgot to explain. The brand new trams for Line 20 are seven segment vehicles.
They are reversible with driving cab at both ends - unlike Zurich city trams which are single ended and need turning circles.
Also missed by fbb is a tunnel at Spital ...
.. shown as a dotted line on the tram map.
It is seen below under construction ...
... and from the air.


  1. Thanks FBB for covering this. Two points:
    1. Lancashire County Council purchased the collage site but are rumored now to be looking to sell after the government snub
    2. It is not Network Rail's fault but that of the RSSB who did not like new 3rd Rail electrification, although they are looking into how to make it 'safer'.

  2. Firstly the sponsor has to get the costs right including train modifications etc and keeping up with inflation. Then they have to know the benefits in financial terms with backing from local representative organisations. Thirdly how much money will they invest. The project is not of national importance and the national taxpayer will contribute, but not pay all of it. Compare new stations in Devon and Bristol which are happening and how they were planned.