Campaign for retention of direct services to the south side of Manchester City Centre

Update January 2nd

Our next formal meeting with Rail North and Northern has been arranged for 25th January which is the earliest date we can get.

With the re-routing of all our services to Manchester Victoria now planned for May 2018, it is very (too) close to the March date for public consultation on proposed timetables,

Consequently we are pursuing 2 lines of action:

1.   We are maintaining dialogue with Northern and have sent them an option proposal that should enable them to meet the full 7 day requirement for a direct service to Piccadilly without detriment to other services in the franchise proposition and potentially at a lower operational cost. We are pressing them for comment and feedback. We are also analysing the operator’s data on passenger numbers along the ‘Bolton corridor’ in order to counter any arguments for prioritising other services over ours.

2.   Our MPs have been briefed and we know they are equally concerned over the apparent lack of commitment from those running and overseeing the franchise to implementing an option that meets our service need. Subject to confirmation, it is anticipated they will write to the Rail Minister and DfT seeking a formal meeting to secure assurances that real effort will be applied to resolving this satisfactorily.

The campaign group is also taking and considering other actions.

What stands in our way?

Inertia – there is such an entrenched position being held by authorities and commercial decision-makers that, never mind how wrong the situation is, they are blind to the win-win potential of correcting it. Hence the course of action described above.

The operator Northern is clearly very exercised by two issues:

- The peak passenger numbers it needs to carry between Bolton and Piccadilly either starting from or passing through Bolton. They don’t seem to correlate this demand with the one in four that will be setting out between Southport and Westhoughton (our line) for the south side. We are working on this.

- The promised cascade of diesel trains is now uncertain and subject to an unknown, possibly lengthy delay. However, the Class 319 electric units used
between Liverpool and Manchester, and Liverpool and Preston appear to be readily available. Just before Xmas, Northern announced it had commissioned a 319 prototype conversion to bi mode operation which entailed the addition of diesel motors that can generate the electricity to drive the unit on non-electrified lines. Clearly this is a positive step and we have already contacted Northern over the opportunities.

Make Your Voice Heard

Please contact us with any queries, suggestions or other feedback. Specifically there has been a suggestion that we engage employers on this, do you think that is an avenue we should go down?

You can comment and give critical feedback on the campaign by e mail to or social media:

facebook: southportrailtransportforum     Twitter @opsta15

Burscough Bridge Ticket Office

The ticket office closed on June 25th and although there is behind-the-scenes work to find a viable way of running it in the future, a solution has not been found yet.

Northern has stated clearly it has no interest on staffing a the station but will in course install Ticket Vending Machines and would help the re-equipping of a booking office should a suitable third party come forward.We will seek a formal statement from Lancashire County Council in the New Year on whether they have any firm bids to take over the premises.

Ormskirk-Preston Services

Northern has confirmed it intends to increase services to 17 a day between Preston and Ormskirk thus delivering an hourly,  timetable, but this will not be introduced before May 18 (back from Dec 17) due to the impact of widespread industry delays in electrification schemes and cascade of rolling stock.

Northern has indicated this schedule will be achieved through 'interworking' train units with other services thus enabling 2 trains to be running on the line simultaneously and passing on “the Preston approaches”, but not as a timetabled through service.

Our surveys clearly show the importance of getting the times aligned to traveller need especially in the peak periods which means a more frequent if irregular service that could only be achieved by a return to units passing at Rufford.

OPSTA has submitted a schedule for consideration and raised the issue of students travelling from East Lancashire having to endure poor connections at Preston.

Midge Hall – OPSTA attended the recent consultation event held by the Developer of the nearby brownfield Leyland test track site. Planning permission is sought for 1200 homes plus business premises. There was a constructive and supportive discussion on the value of a rail station in the locality. Our next step is to arrange an exploratory meeting with South Ribble Borough Council.

Fare Collection

Rail users can assist by emailing their observations and experiences to


Timetables and service changes

Those were the days
Ormskirk station, 1908

2nd January Updates (centre)
- Southport Manchester Campaign
- Burscough Bridge Ticket Office
- Preston - Ormskirk Services
- Midge Hall

Who are we? The Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers' Association - OPSTA - is the rail user group for West Lancashire's railways using the traditional boundaries described by Preston, Wigan and Liverpool.

We are a non political group that campaigns for the retention, improvement and development of the railway links between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk, and from Southport and Kirkby to Manchester via Wigan. We are members of the West of Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and the One West Lancs Transport group. If you find that we share common aims please join us or follow us here and on twitter @opsta15.

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