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

Update November 28th

First some good news, our services will not be changed before May 2018.
This is a deferral from December 2017 whereas some other service and timetable changes will still be made at the end of next year and it may well have been the case for our services too if it was not for the pressure from the campaign.

Nevertheless, the plan remains to run both of our services to Victoria and we were disappointed not to see any kind of proposal tabled at the meeting on 21st November with Northern and Rail North.

It was constructive, with information and thinking exchanged, and actions agreed to work together between now and at the next meeting in January. RN and Northern were positive there is time to work up options, and explained it was a number of industry issues and dependencies that precluded them from a meaningful discussion of options at this point. Proposed timetables will be out for public consultation in March and the formal submission of finalised timetables must be made to Network Rail in August as part of the regulated process.

We made it clear that we expect to see the detail of real options that will deliver the full 7 day service requirement.

We ensured the meeting was documented comprehensively with key points, areas of agreement and actions. Our challenge is to drive the process forward.

We have established some common ground. The data from the independent passenger survey was reviewed and considered against our own work with you. It was agreed there is good alignment and a firm basis to work from.

What stands in our way? 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 for the south side.

The promised cascade of diesel trains is now uncertain and subject to an unknown, possibly lengthy delay.

Next Steps

We will follow through on the actions agreed with RN and Northern. At the same time we will be briefing and speaking with our MPs to establish what further measures we can take.

Expect a further update in around 2 weeks. In the meantime please come back 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?

Issue and background

Every week day 850 peak period commuters rely on the threatened service as do hundreds more throughout the day and week!

At this point the rail service and timetable planning will result in the Southport line losing its direct service to Piccadilly and the airport from December 2017.

And we welcome your comment and critical feedback on the campaign through by e mail to or social media:

facebook: southportrailtransportforum

Twitter @opsta15

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 you can follow us here (last updated on 28th November) and on 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.

OPSTA will assist and work constructively with all parties to get a staffed ticket office re-opened, and if necessary, as looks increasingly likely, we will campaign on this issue too.

With Northern promising to increase the number of staffed stations under the new franchise could they provide some financial support here?


Ormskirk-Preston Services

Although it is widely reported that the proposed and very welcome increase to 17 services a day between Preston and Ormskirk will deliver an hourly, clockface timetable, we await the detail. Northern has said timetables are being worked on and indicated this schedule will be achieved through sharing train unit allocations with other services thus enabling 2 trains to be running on the line simultaneously and passing on “the Preston approaches”. Suggestion that our line will become part of a timetabled through service was denied.

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.

Fare Collection

Rail users can assist by emailing their observations and experiences to


Timetables and service changes

Those were the days

Ormskirk station, 1908


Open Meeting with Northern on 14th November was well attended and very worthwhile. Northern would like to meet us again next Jan / Feb to give us updates on progress in specific areas.

Venue: proved a good environment for a meeting like this and our hosts were great hence we will leave their details on here for a while.

The Blue Mallard, Burscough Wharf, Liverpool Road North, L40 5RZ

Telephone: 01704 893954

There is a car park to the rear of the Wharf and it is an easy walk from both Burscough Bridge and Junction stations (10 minutes max).

The meeting will be on the first floor and can be accessed by either lift or stairs.

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