Merseyrail severed lines question

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thenorthern

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This may seem a strange question but I was looking at the Merseyrail map and I was wondering why the Ellesmere Port, Borderlands, Ormskirk and Kirkby branches severed for the Merseyrail network and not just converted all the way?

I am only asking as it seems from beyond these stations heading towards Liverpool the Merseyrail has been a great success but heading the other way it seems the lines have become run down and not very well used.
 
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One would think it was PTE boundaries, but that only applies for Kirkby. Had the boundaries been stuck to, the Ormskirk change would be at Maghull and the Chester/Hell-esmere Port change would still be at Hooton. I don't know the actual reasons, but each place is the largest intermediate settlement en-route. Logically, you wouldn't put a block in at all, but in the case of Ormskirk even if the 3rd rail went all the way to Preston there wouldn't be demand for all 4tph to go North of Ormy- this would mean a more complex station would be needed along with pointwork and signalling.
 

Tremzinho

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Most of the Merseyrail electrification predates PTEs, and indeed British Rail, having been done by LMS and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

The PTE were behind for the extensions to Kirkby, Garston (later Hunts Cross) and Hooton (later extending to Chester & Ellesmere Port).

If LYR hadn't electrified to Ormskirk in 1913 it's possible that we would now only have electrification extending to Aintree, and Ormskirk might not have developed into part of Liverpool's commuter belt.
 
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Take a look at a more detailed map of Merseyside which shows all the settlements (e.g. Ordnance Survey 1:50000 Sheet 108).

You can easily see the extent of the densely built-up areas, which helps explain why the electrified network ends where it does, and why the diesel lines beyond have relatively few sources of customers (in addition to PTE boundaries & local government politics).
 
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AndyW33

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This may seem a strange question but I was looking at the Merseyrail map and I was wondering why the Ellesmere Port, Borderlands, Ormskirk and Kirkby branches severed for the Merseyrail network and not just converted all the way?

I am only asking as it seems from beyond these stations heading towards Liverpool the Merseyrail has been a great success but heading the other way it seems the lines have become run down and not very well used.

It isn't so much that the lines beyond the electrified limits have become not very well used, it's more that they were never very well used to begin with.

Each of the four cases is separate.
Kirkby was effectively built as a New Town to take Liverpool overspill population postwar. Because of where its residents originally came from, their relatives, jobs, major shopping and so on were always going to produce far more journeys towards Liverpool than towards Wigan and Manchester.
As already said, Ormskirk was a very early electrification in the UK, and the L&Y probably accurately defined the edge of the Liverpool catchment area. From time to time proposals are made to extend the electrification (and truncate the diesel service) to Burscough and this is probably now justified. But between Burscough and Preston is just mile after mile of lightly populated reclaimed marshland.
Both lines paid their way for many years on through trains from Liverpool Exchange to Manchester Victoria and points east, and to Preston and points north, along with through freight. But as traffic declined generally, the ex-LNW routes out of Lime Street were perfectly capable of handling the through traffic, and the desire of BR to get rid of the over-sized site at Liverpool Exchange met the PTE's desire to run trains right through the city centre, which precluded diesels in the tunnels.
I'll leave others to explain the other two decisions.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The Chester/Ellesmere Port extension was supported by Cheshire CC, and from the railway point of view it eliminated an expensive DMU pocket.
The electric service could also be run with the existing fleet.
Chester is also a big traffic generator in its own right, and I'm sure the business case was sound.
I suspect it's the busiest of the Wirral lines, and certainly carries more end-to-end traffic than the others.

Ellesmere Port is a different matter, as it's not a significant "destination".
There was never any prospect of continuing to Helsby or beyond.
Maybe there are stirrings in that direction now that the Halton Curve is coming back, but generally the area is not rail oriented.
It will be interesting to see what traffic the upcoming through Ellesmere Port-Manchester trains generate.
 

Taunton

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The Borderlands line has seemingly lost a lot of the traffic it handled when I knew it well in the late 1960s, although it never had much (or could have had) from its stations within the Merseyside area, because all of Bidston, Upton and Heswall are in the middle of nowhere and could not have been more inconveniently sited for their respective urban areas if they had tried. The bulk of the traffic was always from Wales to Liverpool, much for shopping, and a long term trend is that Liverpool has declined notably as a shopping centre, while Chester has risen to take its place. BR of course closed the line from the Borderlands into Chester, while keeping the long and indirect route to Liverpool.

Always notable was the way the ambience inside the Merseyrail electric changed at Bidston, where it would fill up with connecting passengers, from Scouse suburban accents to Welsh language prevailing.
 

craigybagel

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The Chester/Ellesmere Port extension was supported by Cheshire CC, and from the railway point of view it eliminated an expensive DMU pocket.
The electric service could also be run with the existing fleet.
Chester is also a big traffic generator in its own right, and I'm sure the business case was sound.
I suspect it's the busiest of the Wirral lines, and certainly carries more end-to-end traffic than the others.

Ellesmere Port is a different matter, as it's not a significant "destination".
There was never any prospect of continuing to Helsby or beyond.
Maybe there are stirrings in that direction now that the Halton Curve is coming back, but generally the area is not rail oriented.
It will be interesting to see what traffic the upcoming through Ellesmere Port-Manchester trains generate.

There has been a suggestion that with all the chemical works around the line between Ellesmere Port and Helsby it wouldn't be safe to electrify it, but I doubt there's much truth in it. The fact it only supports 4 lightly loaded trains a day suggests there aren't much potential passengers around there.

One slight difference between Ellesmere Port and Kirkby/Orsmkirk that isn't made clear in the OP; Whilst the line is physically severed at Kirkby and Orsmkirk, effectively creating 2 single track stubs, the through lines still exist at Ellesmere Port, albeit with the EMU and DMU services using separate platforms.
 
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Polarbear

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One slight difference between Ellesmere Port and Helsby/Orsmkirk that isn't made clear in the OP; Whilst the line is physically severed at Helsby and Orsmkirk, effectively creating 2 single track stubs, the through lines still exist at Ellesmere Port, albeit with the EMU and DMU services using separate platforms.

Should that read Kirkby and not Helsby as regards the severed lines?
 

MichaelAMW

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There has been a suggestion that with all the chemical works around the line between Ellesmere Port and Helsby it wouldn't be safe to electrify it, but I doubt there's much truth in it. The fact it only supports 4 lightly loaded trains a day suggests there aren't much potential passengers around there.

Interesting that before the electrification to Ellesmere Port the line to Helsby had an hourly service off peak and half hourly in the peak. When the electric trains only ran as far as Rock Ferry there was an hourly DMU to Chester with a connection at Hooton, but on Saturday it was a through service to Rock Ferry, i.e. Rock Ferry to Hooton was half hourly on Saturday. Football? Shopping? When the electrification extended to Hooton there was a DMU from Helsby to Chester, reversing at Hooton, again up to half hourly in the peaks. If it could drop to four daily the previous service must have been for operational reasons, unless there's some traffic flow that has now stopped, like the Stockport - Stalybridge line.

One slight difference between Ellesmere Port and Kirkby/Orsmkirk that isn't made clear in the OP; Whilst the line is physically severed at Kirkby and Orsmkirk, effectively creating 2 single track stubs, the through lines still exist at Ellesmere Port, albeit with the EMU and DMU services using separate platforms.
 

Ianigsy

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Interesting that before the electrification to Ellesmere Port the line to Helsby had an hourly service off peak and half hourly in the peak. When the electric trains only ran as far as Rock Ferry there was an hourly DMU to Chester with a connection at Hooton, but on Saturday it was a through service to Rock Ferry, i.e. Rock Ferry to Hooton was half hourly on Saturday. Football? Shopping? When the electrification extended to Hooton there was a DMU from Helsby to Chester, reversing at Hooton, again up to half hourly in the peaks. If it could drop to four daily the previous service must have been for operational reasons, unless there's some traffic flow that has now stopped, like the Stockport - Stalybridge line.

I have a 1972-3 London Midland Region timetable which shows a half-hourly service between Rock Ferry and Hooton for most of the day, alternating between Chester and Helsby. There are a couple of peak semi-fasts in both directions and a couple of through trains to Llandudno, suggesting a regular traffic to and from North Wales. The weekday evening peak departures from Rock Ferry are a little odd though:

1618 Helsby
1628 Bromborough
1638 Llandudno (nicely timed for shopping in Liverpool?)
1658 Helsby
1708 Bromborough
1718 Chester (semi-fast calling Port Sunlight, Bromborough, Hooton and Upton-by-Chester)
1728 Helsby
1748 Chester (semi-fast calling Bromborough, Hooton and Upton-by-Chester)
1758 Chester all stations
1818 Chester all stations
1838 Helsby and a return to half-hourly service for the rest of the evening.

Leaving Hooton northbound over a similar period we have:
1636 ex Helsby
1652 ex Stanlow (not calling at Spital)
1658 ex Chester
1719 ex Helsby
1733 ex Chester
1801 ex Helsby (not calling at Spital, Port Sunlight or Bebington)
1808 ex Chester
1833 ex Helsby (terminates)
1843 ex Chester and back to half-hourly thereafter

The skipped stops in the northbound trains from Helsby seem to be for pathing reasons as much as anything else; from what I remember at the time, Rock Ferry was operated as two two-platform termini facing in opposite directions at the time so there was no capacity for a third unit to lay over. A lot of the passenger traffic will have been generated by shift changes at Stanlow and also Lever Brothers at Port Sunlight, so the Bromborough short workings may have been to accommodate Port Sunlight workers as well as providing extra capacity to the last large settlement within Merseyside. I suspect that electrifying to Ellesmere Port may have had its bottom line covered by regeneration funding.

As far as the Borderlands Line is concerned, remember that until circa 1980 the northern terminus was either Birkenhead North (where there was a third platform face to accommodate the connection) or New Brighton. Bidston was adopted as the terminus to keep the DMUs off a congested section of track (at the time there was freight to and from Birkenhead Docks using the section, and any shunting at Birkenhead North can also take up space on the running lines).

Electrification to Kirkby was a precursor to the closure of Liverpool Exchange- the mooted alternative for Bolton-Wigan-Liverpool trains was to have the DMU service terminate at Sandhills, i.e. one station short of the city centre and not really ideal on a layout with no room for a layover siding, so the terminating DMU would have to empty and reverse in between Southport and Ormskirk services. I'd agree that the natural end for that service is the bay at Wigan Wallgate, but the difficulty seems to be getting Merseytravel, Lancashire and TfGM to agree at the same time.
 
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frodshamfella

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The Borderlands line has seemingly lost a lot of the traffic it handled when I knew it well in the late 1960s, although it never had much (or could have had) from its stations within the Merseyside area, because all of Bidston, Upton and Heswall are in the middle of nowhere and could not have been more inconveniently sited for their respective urban areas if they had tried. The bulk of the traffic was always from Wales to Liverpool, much for shopping, and a long term trend is that Liverpool has declined notably as a shopping centre, while Chester has risen to take its place. BR of course closed the line from the Borderlands into Chester, while keeping the long and indirect route to Liverpool.

Always notable was the way the ambience inside the Merseyrail electric changed at Bidston, where it would fill up with connecting passengers, from Scouse suburban accents to Welsh language prevailing.

I'm not sure I agree with you , Liverpool has grown as a shopping centre particularly since Liverpool 1 was built. Chester is actually in the Doldrums with many of the high end boutiques gone, and poor department store provision.
 

jamesst

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I'm not sure I agree with you , Liverpool has grown as a shopping centre particularly since Liverpool 1 was built. Chester is actually in the Doldrums with many of the high end boutiques gone, and poor department store provision.

Fully agree, Liverpool has grown massively since the opening of Liverpool one. Proven by James Street station going from a 6 day station which closed in the evening to become one of the busiest stations 7 days a week.
Chester sadly seems to be going In the other direction
 

thenorthern

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Am I right in thinking the through running on the Ormskirk line was ended partially because around the same time street level lines in Liverpool closed meaning all trains ran in tunnels in Liverpool City Centre making diesel traction unsuitable.
 

John Luxton

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I recall being taken to Ormskirk in the 1960s and all three platform lines (up and down) and bay were electrified.

When through running ended the down line was retained as a by-pass to the back to back stops but was later removed. By the time the upline was severed the bay platform line had been removed.

I have not been to Ormskirk for years - but I often wondered why rather than erect the back to back stops and sever the through line the bay platform (on the up side) wasn't retained for electrics and the up main platform for the Preston trains?

Could anyone tell me if the space occupied by the bay platform line could be used for electrics again and the Preston line reconnected? Only one point and a ground frame would be required.

John
 

Bevan Price

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I have a 1972-3

Electrification to Kirkby was a precursor to the closure of Liverpool Exchange- the mooted alternative for Bolton-Wigan-Liverpool trains was to have the DMU service terminate at Sandhills, i.e. one station short of the city centre and not really ideal on a layout with no room for a layover siding, so the terminating DMU would have to empty and reverse in between Southport and Ormskirk services. I'd agree that the natural end for that service is the bay at Wigan Wallgate, but the difficulty seems to be getting Merseytravel, Lancashire and TfGM to agree at the same time.

One problem between Kirkby & Wigan is that most of the intermediate stations are badly sited relative to the local population centres.

Rainford (formerly Rainford Junction) ia about one mile from the main part of Rainford, and has a tiny car park.

Upholland is located over a mile from most of Upholland, has not got a station car park - but there are a few parking spaces in the vicinity.

Orrell is fairly central for the local population, but does not have a car park. Also, the hourly train service has to compete with a more frequent bus service to Wigan.

Pemberton station is on the fringe of the most populated areas, and the train cannot compete with more frequent local bus services to/from Wigan.
 

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If Skelmersdale was linked to the Ormskirk line again - and to use the old line would probably require a short diversion to avoid gardens/outbuildings, I assume that would be part of the Merseyrail network?

What is happening there? Is re-opening ever going to happen? Of course it won't go to the center of Skem - Up Holland station won't be much further away than the only place I can see a station being built - but there owuld be room for a P+R.
Any help?
 

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I thought the Skem proposal was for a branch from the Kirkby line, passing under the M58 by the bridge over Whiteledge Road???
 

Ianigsy

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One problem between Kirkby & Wigan is that most of the intermediate stations are badly sited relative to the local population centres.

Quite- and the service pattern seems to chop and change in a way which isn't going to encourage property developers to build near the railway and use it as a selling point. Hourly service at best with no late or Sunday trains, and an eastern terminus which can be anywhere between Wigan and Huddersfield!
 

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What doesn't seem to have been mentioned is that the Bidston - Wrexham service (naturally) never ran through to Liverpool. when I first knew it in the early 70s in ran to New Brighton. I believe before that it ran to Seacombe (closed 1960). In the late 1970s (?) it was transferred to Birkenhead North (more convenient for Liverpool / Birkenhead). Later it was truncated to Bidston - probably so a saving of 1 unit could be made on an hourly service.
 

Gathursty

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Some houses have been developed in the last five years within 200m of both Orrell and Pemberton stations.
 

61653 HTAFC

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I thought the Skem proposal was for a branch from the Kirkby line, passing under the M58 by the bridge over Whiteledge Road???

That's right- it would be a brand new alignment rather than a re-use of an old line. The old Ormskirk to Old Skem line is mostly unhindered (it's now a cycleway) but the trackbed near Skelmersdale is occupied by the ring-road. A new line from the Kirkby/Upholland direction would be easier to get near to the "Centre" of Skelmersdale (namely the Concourse shopping centre) than the old line from Ormskirk.

No. In the early 1990s a footpath to the bus station was installed over the bay.

Very useful it was too, when I studied there. Retaining a second platform would make reconnection easier, but at the cost of providing a footbridge (which would now need replacement with an accessible version). The old bay would also have been difficult to extend to 6-car length.
 
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Am I right in thinking the through running on the Ormskirk line was ended partially because around the same time street level lines in Liverpool closed meaning all trains ran in tunnels in Liverpool City Centre making diesel traction unsuitable.
Through running between Preston/Liverpool via Ormskirk ended in 1970, a good few years before closure of Liverpool Exchange station and opening of the underground Link in 1977.

In 1968 & 1969, the service pattern on the Liverpool-Ormskirk-Preston line was:-
  • Liverpool Exchange – Ormskirk EMUs, stopping all stations, generally every 30 minutes in the off-peak.

  • Liverpool – Preston serviced by DMUs, mostly running express between Liverpool Exchange and Ormskirk, then stopping at stations to Preston. A few DMUs stopped additionally at Aintree and Orrell Park, a good fraction of trains skipped Rufford and Lostock Hall stations.
    These mostly ran via Lostock Hall and Todd Lane Jn to the East Lancs side of Preston station, although a few trains followed today’s route via Farington Curve Jn to the North Union (current platforms) at Preston.
    Frequency was at odd intervals and there could be 1 – 2½ hour gaps between trains.

  • In summer there were several through DMUs between Liverpool Exchange and Blackpool North, either express between Liverpool and Ormskirk, or with one stop at Aintree.

  • Liverpool/Scotland expresses still ran from Liverpool Exchange until 1969. There were two northbound departures from Liverpool to Glasgow at 0900 and 1745, first stop Preston, plus a third train on Fridays & Saturdays in summer departing at 1335.
    Southbound, the two all-year trains from Glasgow arrived in Exchange at 1246 & 2201, with the summer FSO extra arriving at 1911, after stopping at Burscough Junction and Ormskirk.
From May 1970, through trains from Liverpool to Blackpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh were all diverted to Lime Street.
All the Liverpool/Preston DMUs were cut back to Ormskirk and Sunday services between Ormskirk and Preston were eliminated.
This pattern continued for many years and was largely unaffected by the Link & Loop projects in central Liverpool.
 
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Howardh

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I thought the Skem proposal was for a branch from the Kirkby line, passing under the M58 by the bridge over Whiteledge Road???

Could be right, looking at a map it's feasable but wouldn't it be a lot more expensive than relaying the old route? With the Kirkby route, would the Merseyrail be extended and double up over the heavy rail line - or run side-by-side as the tram/rail does around Navigation Road?
 

Bletchleyite

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Could be right, looking at a map it's feasable but wouldn't it be a lot more expensive than relaying the old route? With the Kirkby route, would the Merseyrail be extended and double up over the heavy rail line - or run side-by-side as the tram/rail does around Navigation Road?

Merseyrail *is* heavy rail, so they can run on the same tracks. The diesel service would then logically start/terminate at Rainford (assuming the new line was further along than the old one). Or (as I heard proposed) electrify to Wigan at the same time, and of the 4tph to Kirkby 2 go to Skem and 2 to Wigan.

Looking at a map it'd have a very clear run in, possibly along the central reservation of (or replacing) the existing road.
 
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snowball

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Looking at a map it'd have a very clear run in, possibly along the central reservation of (or replacing) the existing road.
Clear in the sense of no buildings in the way, but there would need to be a lot of alterations to the road network. I'm sure no level crossings would be allowed. I hope I live to see it - it would be interesting to see how they do it.
 

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I'd assumed that the current Skelmersdale plans would be for all Kirkby EMUs extended to Skelmersdale, with a curve from the new Skem line towards Rainford/Wigan served by the current hourly Kirkby DMUs. Whether the existing line between the new curves would be retained, I have no idea- it probably wouldn't see much use if it was kept.

A terminal station at Skem with 2 platforms (either side of an island) would be sufficient, it may work as 2 separate bi-directional lines with only one being electrified but with 4tph to Liverpool double track might be needed.
 
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L+Y

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[*]Liverpool/Scotland expresses still ran from Liverpool Exchange until 1969. There were two northbound departures from Liverpool to Glasgow at 0900 and 1745, first stop Preston, plus a third train on Fridays & Saturdays in summer departing at 1335.
Southbound, the two all-year trains from Glasgow arrived in Exchange at 1246 & 2201, with the summer FSO extra arriving at 1911, after stopping at Burscough Junction and Ormskirk.[/list]From May 1970, through trains from Liverpool to Blackpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh were all diverted to Lime Street.
All the Liverpool/Preston DMUs were cut back to Ormskirk and Sunday services between Ormskirk and Preston were eliminated.
This pattern continued for many years and was largely unaffected by the Link & Loop projects in central Liverpool.

Agreed: except the Glasgows stayed running out of Exchange until May 1970. By this point they were the only through trains on the route aside from a Saturdays-only freight: the DMUs had been curtailed at Ormskirk from October 1969 onwards. The last ever through working was the regular Saturday Fazakerley-WCML track panel train on Saturday 27th June: I have a photo of it passing Ormskirk behind a split box 40.

I believe the reason for the current platform layout at Ormskirk is BR's desire to save costs on maintaining two/three platforms, two buildings and a footbridge. There was also an eagerness to move towards running longer electric trains, and the bay could only ever fit in five cars at most.

The loop at Ormskirk was almost never used after the buffers went up in June 1970: I know of two freight diversions in 1971 and 1973, and a weekend of passenger diversions in October 1972. I've read that the loop was used additionally to move EMUs to Horwich for servicing, but have never seen a single photo of one of these purported workings despite having amassed quite a collection from the line.
 
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