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Wirral Residents Urged to Participate in Rail Survey

Author: Chris Howe Published: 14th August 2012 09:10

This article is being boosted back to the top of 'Latest' in order to alert residents to a petition that has now been created.

To sign the petition, go to: www.WrexhamBidstonAction.org.uk

Original article from 23.1.2012 follows:

As someone that has to, from time to time, travel to London and the West Midlands, I have had my share of rail journey experiences, most of which usually start at Hooton station despite the fact that I live in Neston.

Neston Railway StationLast week though I had a ticket booked from Liverpool Lime Street to Birmingham, so I thought I would try travelling to Liverpool from Neston. The journey out wasn't particularly bad or good, it took 43 minutes, the equivalent of driving to Hooton and then catching the train to Liverpool. However on the return journey I was surprised to find that between 18:56 and 20:56 there was no timetabled service heading to Neston from Bidston at all which, due to the time that I arrived back in Liverpool, meant I had to wait for an hour in Bidston. Quite why this is I have no idea, you would expect that with an hourly service provided through most of the day, a 19:56 service would have been included within the timetable

For me, this poor service highlights why the trains passing through Neston always look so empty and why Neston station itself doesn't appear to get much use, other than by the bored vandals who have been slowly destroying the shelters.

I think this is a shame as the line could be so useful to the residents of Heswall, Neston and Upton as it has connecting stations through to Liverpool and Chester. The Liverpool connection is not too bad, but with a 5 minute change for services to Liverpool from Bidston, it relies heavily on there being no problems further down the line, otherwise it involves a longer wait for the next train. The service back is even more reliant on a trouble- free service: if you miss the train departing from Bidston you have an hour's wait for the next one - unless you're unlucky enough to miss the 18:56 in which case you will have to wait for the 20:56 service!

Chester station is accessible if you are willing to change trains at Shotton. However there seem to be a lack of trains stopping at Shotton on the way to Chester which means the train arriving at Shotton from the direction of Bidston missed the only hourly train departing from Shotton on route to Chester.  This means you have a 40 minute wait at Shotton, which makes for a total journey of at least an hour despite the services from Shotton to Chester only taking 11 minutes and from Neston to Shotton taking 10 minutes. With a not- too-impossible 10 minute connection time, the journey could easily be 30 minutes from Neston to Chester which would compete with the 40+ minute bus journey and puts it close to the same journey time by car.

It is for this reason that I wish to get feedback from residents who live close to Neston, Heswall and Upton stations. Even if you haven't used the line before or use it infrequently. My aim is to collect as much information as possible from real passengers who could imagine themselves taking advantage of the connections offered, if they were improved.

I will send the collated information and any recommendation to local MPs, Merseyrail, Arriva and any other travel groups who can help to try and give passengers the connections and journey times that would make the Wrexham - Bidston (Borderlands) line of real use the residents that it is supposed to serve.

Complete the Survey Here

It will take just a few minutes and will help me to gauge your opinion of this apparently unloved line.

I know electrification, with the subsequent direct services to Liverpool, is a long term aspiration of Merseyrail and the Welsh Government, but I simply cannot see this happening any time soon with the costs for such a scheme currently not offering good value for money.

It seems to be a Catch 22 situation, more people need to use the line in order for the Dft and Network Rail to justify investing in electrification or even just giving Arriva Train Wales more units to operate more frequent half hourly services. So Arriva TW and Merseyrail need to make the best of what they have available to make the line truly useful for passengers from the Wirral and, of course, Wales.

Chris Howe
Neston Resident.

If you are on Facebook, you can also 'like' a page Chris has set up relating to this issue, here.

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lorraine b
At 10:01 on 23rd January 2012, lorraine b commented:
my son has to go to college in aintree every tuesday, he gets the 7am train in the morning and tries his best to get the 20:56 train back, but as you said if for some reason he is running late or there is a problem on the liverpool line, he misses this one, and then would have to wait til nearly 11pm at night, on these occasions we then have to travel to bidston to pick him up as i wont have him waiting for nearly two hours !! at that time of night. somethink does need to be done for this train line or it is going to put people off using it.
Rob Ward
At 19:12 on 23rd January 2012, Rob Ward commented:
Well done Chris for arranging this! I've done the survey, and it's quite easy.
Neston station now has electronic signs, which should one day tell us when the next train is coming.
The last train from Liverpool Central leaves at 10.35, too early for theatres (and about the same time as the last bus).
The service to Hooton is fantastic, the last one after midnight, but buses to Neston disappear in the evenings and on Sundays.
It's not easy being environmentally careful in Neston, but we need to keep trying!
Pat Hughes
At 20:58 on 23rd January 2012, Pat Hughes commented:
Well done indeed. I have sent the link to this page to Kim Hawkins and Shelley Hall the Arriva managers responsible for the Borberlands Line and Jamie Sant the Community Relations Officer for the line.

Pat Hughes
Parkgate Ward Town Councillor
At 23:22 on 23rd January 2012, merrymac commented:
Thank you Chris for having the community spirit to organise this. Once results have been collated , it would be interesting to see the summary. As far as the line's electrification, don't hold your breath in this present economic climate
At 00:44 on 24th January 2012, , commented:
The government want to spend tens of billions putting the HS2 between London and Birmingham just to shave time off that journey, and this first phase won't be delivered until 2026 (correct me if I am wrong with the date - but lets just say a ridiculous amount of time & money in the future).

Here we have one example where the rail service needs upgrading to link two different systems and electrify the line so trains from Liverpool could run directly to Wrexham via the many stations in-between. I am sure there are hundreds of such upgrade projects around the UK which would increase our train network and be better use of money invested into the rail network.

Speaking as someone who works regularly in Liverpool the whole problem that Chris highlighted here is the reason I drive to Hooton, Spital or Green Lane every time I go to Liverpool, just so I don't get stuck in Bidston on the return journey.

If there was a direct service between Liverpool/Birkenhead and Neston/Wrexham then I would use that for sure without having to drive at all, and I have no doubt many other commuters would use the service.
Robin H
At 10:29 on 24th January 2012, Robin H commented:
I tried to travel to London recently via Neston. The timings weren't too bad outward but the return was protracted due to a 1hr plus wait at Lime Street. That, plus the prospect of changing at Bidston with heavy baggage put us off so we cadged a lift. Remarkably, though, the Advance Booking price for the return Euston - Neston was only GBP16.50. I have also used it for a day out to Bettws y Coed via Shotton. It worked out very well. For us, the Bidston change, poor connections, infrequency and the lack of a post-theatre return are the off-puts. I also wondered whether running through to New Brighton would be attractive, as it used to, given the attraction of the new theatre.
At 15:40 on 24th January 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
Thank you for your responses, I wasn't sure that many would want to fill out the survey, but so far there are a good range of answers.

I will endeavour to learn all I can about the line so I can make some recommendations based on the results. I will also ask Carrie if she wouldn't mind publishing the results in a few weeks when a good number of people have filled it out.

Please ask family and friends to fill out the survey the more people that fill it out the better.

I'm not a rail professional by any means but I do understand the sort of work that has to go into putting together rail strategies so will use that experience to goo effect I hope.
At 16:07 on 24th January 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
For those of you on Facebook I have started a group so that I can post updates and to allow people to discus it further.

Simply search for "Wirral Borderlands Line action group" on facebook
At 12:23 on 25th January 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
Good responses so far thank you for all your comments.

I see there is a lot of call for electrification, which I agree is brilliant idea. Unfortunately I can't see it being a realistic expectation at least not until the 2020s at the earliest. Network Rails quoted £208m for 3rd rail electrification which would offer very poor value for money for just 1 train an hour on a line that is under used.

Overhead electrification with duel voltage trains may reduce the cost but it will still be in the £100m range which I see as still being too expensive for Network Rail.

I know this may seem disappointing to a great many who would love to use this line if it direct Liverpool trains were offered, but there is a lot that can be done to improve the service using diesel stock. Altering the connection to Birkenhead North for instance would mean you have connecting trains to Liverpool every 5-10 minutes which decrease the likelihood of missing connections and would speed up the journey.

However before NR, Arriva or the DFt are willing to look at spending on more rolling stock to improve reliability and to extend the connection to Birkenhead North we need to show that people are be willing to use the service despite having to change trains. The current time of 43 minutes can be improved I'm sure and still competes with driving to Hooton to catch the train or the bus.

Any suggestions are welcome. Please make any suggestions on here for now and I will take them all into account and collate all comments.

Thanks Chris
David C
At 13:46 on 25th January 2012, David C commented:
I tried to fill it in but it wouldn't record any of my votes!
Katie Robson
At 15:19 on 25th January 2012, Katie Robson responded:
@Chris - no problem, keep me posted and I'll publish updates.

@David C - try refreshing the page using ctrl and the F5 key simultaneously. If that doesn't work, it may be to do with the browser/ISP you use. For example, if you are on AOL, that can be tricky when accessing online surveys etc. If that is the case, and you are keen to enter the survey, Neston Library offers free internet access, so you could pop in there to complete it.
Jeni Y
At 17:20 on 25th January 2012, Jeni Y commented:
I am a Neston resident but rarely use Neston Station due to the uncertainty of connections and the long waits experienced at Bidston - not a staion to be marooned in the late evening. Hooton Station provides a very good service but unfortunately involves the use of your car or the infrequent bus service. Surely the answer is to electrify the line which would benefit so many people in this area, taking congestion off the roads which would improve the environment. Its communities like ours that need long awaited improvements NOW not a high speed train from London to Birmingham. The railway companies seem oblivious to a need to provide more services and more carriages to accommodate existing and future commuters which would mean more revenue (without outrageous fare increases). In the 1950's I could travel by train from Parkgate Station to Brighton, I think there was only one change (I was quite young so cannot fully remember) but nowadays have things improved? Mr Beeching has a lot to answer for especially when the British roads are gridlocked in the very near future!
tricia mary
At 19:44 on 25th January 2012, tricia mary commented:
We use the train to Wrexham ( and other North Wales resorts by changing at Shotton ) quite often. Just going to Wrexham is not too dear but costs can be prohibitive when going to Rhyl or some where with grandchildren. I hope we never loose this facility and have to rely totally on the bus service. The other moan is that pensioners getting on to travel to Wrexham from the Mersyside of Wirral, travel free as their passes cover train journeys and not just buses
At 15:24 on 26th January 2012, MD commented:
The train service from Neston to Liverpool and back is a crying shame.
Forget getting back via Bidston from Liverpool any time after 4pm. It is pretty hopeless. and even worse on the nights of Derby Games with "technical problems".

You are OK if you go to Liverpool jshopping and can make the 4pm, but after that the trains are well over an hour apart.

What we need is a proper train service that serves the local community, including Heswall and surrounding area, who need to connect with Liverpool and Chester.

What opportunities it would create particularly for the job seekers

You don't always know if the Wrexham train is turning up as there are no electronic information signs. Often I have telephoned Arriva to be tolds it is cancelled.

I have to say it, what transport we have is below that of a Banana Republic.

At 12:05 on 27th January 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
I received a response to my complaint from Arriva Trains Wales, it reads as follows.

"Thank you for your recent email regarding our services on the Wrexham/Bidston line.
I was very sorry to hear of your dissapointment with the frequency of services and connection times and I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience or frustration that you endured when travelling with us recently.
At present the services that we run on this route meet the requirements set out in our franchise agreement, and the public service requirement set out by Welsh Government.
Please be assured however that your comments have been noted and a copy of your email has been passed to our Train Planning Team, for their reference and consideration.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding the problems that you experienced. Customer feedback of any nature is always welcome as it helps us to identify areas of the business that are working well, or areas that require our attention. We are grateful to receive your comments.
Once again, please accept my apologies for the circumstances that have prompted you to contact us, and thank you once again for your comments and suggestions.

Tel 0845 6061 660
E-mail Customer.Relations@arrivatrainswales.co.uk"

So basically they have passed the buck and do not intend to improve the services at this point. I hadn't set up the survey when I first e-mailed them however I will forward on the comments from here, facebook and the 45 or so comments on the survey so far in a few weeks when I have enough responses.

I am still awaiting replies from Merseyrail and those behind the Borderlands web site regarding my complaint.
At 13:16 on 10th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:

It appears that electrification may be of the agenda until after 2019, which is disappointing.

However I feel that a half hourly service is dramatically improve services for Neston and other towns served by the line. Allowing for connections at Shotton for Chester and North Wales and improved connections to Liverpool.

Therefore I have begun a petition that will be sent to the Dft to encourage the department to look at introducing a half hourly service.

You can find the petition on-line here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36966

I would be grateful if people could share the link and try to gather as many signatures as possible.
At 18:56 on 13th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
New quick link to e-petition www.WrexhamBidstonAction.org.uk easier to remember and share. Petition now has the support of Wirral MPs Alison McGovern MP and Esther McVey
At 13:20 on 15th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
Thanks for the boost Carrie.

I have created some letters, with slips people can take away with the web address on, I wonder would it be possible to display one in the community centre?

I've asked for one to be placed in the entrance to the Civic Hall and will ask Sainsburys if the could display one also.
David L
At 13:54 on 15th August 2012, David L commented:
I've added my signature. Perhaps you should see if you can get the local papers from right along the route of the line to report on your petition.
Rob Ward
At 15:25 on 15th August 2012, Rob Ward commented:
I'm confused.
At http://www.aboutmyarea.co.uk/Cheshire/Neston/CH64/News/Local-News/177599-Why-say-yes-to-HS2
Chris Howe said 'the biggest argument for the HS2 is that the West Coast Main Line...is already overcrowded'
Today on the BBC website: 'The government says FirstGroup's new trains should add further 12,000 seats a day on West Coast routes from 2016.'
Our Government accepted the argument for HS2. They now say FirstGroup can greatly increase the capacity on the existing line. Can both be true?
At 15:31 on 15th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
Extra seats were agreed to before First Group bid, this was due to the lengthening of Pendolinos to 11 cars from 9 which have mostly been introduced already.

11 Cars is the maximum length that can be accommodated at most main line WCML stations. Network Rail say even these will be full by the mid 2020.

The WCML is currently full in terms of train paths, so no additional trains can be provided between North and London.

Additional seats it seems will be provided between Scotland and Birmingham which will see 5 car Voyagers replaced by 6 Car "mini" Pendolinos.

So whilst it may seem that extra capacity has been found, the capacity was already agreed to when HS2 was given green light and NR say the WCML will be full by mid 2020.
At 15:34 on 15th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
David, I will see about promoting the petition more when time allows. Just getting the ball rolling at moment. Thanks for your support.
Rob Ward
At 15:35 on 15th August 2012, Rob Ward commented:
I've signed the petition. A half-hourly service would make all the difference to the Wrexham-Bidston line.
At 16:00 on 15th August 2012, Jimini commented:
While I can see the argument for a better rail service the fact of the matter is that the existing service does not get used anywhere near capacity, even during "normal" hours when it is possible to connect at Bidston, I know I've done it. In the present economic climate I would be very surprised if there were any plans to extend the current service in the forseeable future, and as for electrification, well I suspect it will be a long time off if ever. However, lets assume that this utopia arrived and we suddenly had a frequent, reliable and well connected service and it became very popular. Could somebody tell me where all these commuters, students, shoppers and theatregoers would park. There wouldn't be enough long stay parking in Neston. As a lot of people have been saying, and I include my wife and I in this, the service from Hooton is excellent. Sureley what we should be looking at is a frequent and reilable bus service from the Neston area in to Hooton station.
At 17:55 on 15th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
Jimmi, If Hooton is to remain as our main station then you have to assume that everyone who wants to travel by train has access to a car, for the 10-15 minute drive to the station. Neston station provides residents with rail services that for many would be within walking distance, or at the very least a short cycle ride away.

I think your assumption is that trains would only be used by those who may be better off and live in Little Neston, Ness, Pargate or Burton.

Why not try to be a little more green and ride to Neston station? A quick ride for a large proportion of the population. A lot closer than Hooton.

For those who may be less well off and do not have access to a car, their only choice to get to Chester for instance is a 45+ minute bus ride, or a 20+ minute journey to Hooton and another 20 minutes on the train.

If reliable connections were provided by a half hourly service residents from Neston could be in Chester in 40 minutes by train by changing at Shotton, with 1 ticket, rather than purchasing a not so inexpensive return to Hooton and then a ticket from Hooton to Chester.

Residents from Neston should have access to reliable services and not just to Liverpool. The Borderlands line opens up a whole array of routes to Manchester, Chester and North Wales by changing at Shotton, or Birmingham by changing at Wrexham. Why should it be the case that if less privileged residents wish to travel by train they should have to get to Hooton some 5-6 miles away?

This underutilised and under-appreciated line could see patronage increase if services improved and connections as described above where advertised better.

A note on electrification, it is almost guaranteed that the government will not consider the business case based solely on 1 train an hour, so if patronage and service do not increase the service will no be electrified anyway, The line must prove it's worth and increasing the number of diesel services is the only way to do that.
David L
At 07:44 on 16th August 2012, David L commented:
I think one of the main reasons people don't get the train to Liverpool is the difficulty (and sometimes it is just perceived difficulty) in getting back. On the way there in the morning the trains always link up and Bidston station is busy. But on the way back they don't always seem to link and the station can be desolate. It certainly puts me off. A half hourly service would certainly make me more likely to take the train. And the case for travelling to Chester is even stronger - to travel there
by train at the moment is a joke.

We shouldn't forget though that this is not just a Neston problem, surely this affects all communities along this train line.

At 09:34 on 16th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:
David, you are right of course, the line serves many communities, including a further 2 stops in the Wirral alone, and Bidston, which is more of an interchange.

It is interesting to note that Railfuture is lobbying the government to reopen lines that serve towns with a population of 15,000. Which just so happens to be the population of Neston.

Neston is the starting point as it is the town I know, also I feel the residents from Neston are particularly let down by public transport, with very limited access to job opportunities because of such poor access. For many Neston is akin to an island, which is difficult to get from and to unless you have your own transport.
At 16:50 on 16th August 2012, kerryman commented:
Firstly lets not try to run before we can walk,it is very unlikley we will ever get electrification on the borderlands line, if you were a millionaire would you invest in it,and do you really think the taxpayer will foot the bill?

If a near miracle did happen and we had 3rd rail electrfication vast tranches of the line in North Wales would have to be fenced off for safety concerns,Bridges or tunnels would have to be built to cross the line at places like Hope and Caergwrle Castle etc.
Would you let your children play or cross the line by wooden "Barrow Crossings?
So we are left with electric overhead wires. or getting modern ecconomical trains such as duel fuel etc to help bring down costs

The priority must be to get more peope to use the line,and a more frequent service and not forgeting cutting costs.

A new station at Woodchurch road is a absolute must, giving access to Arrowe Park Hospital, Tranmere Rovers, Birkenhead, and most places on the Wirral as most buses use this route.
My wife works with at least 5 girls who live in buckley or Hawarden on just 2 wards at APH.
a new station at Dee Marsh would also help to open up Deeside for little cost.
If you all remember a new station was built is a week in Cumbria during the floods..

As for the train terminating at Birkenhead North it has been tried and did not last long,....if you think waiting in the dark at Bidston is scarey, then waiting at Birkenhead North is akin to a white knuckle ride, you may as well wear a bulls eye on your forehead.

I myself use the train to wrexham nearly once a week, and i have never seen the conductor/guard take much money after Caergwrle and none from Gwersylt, the stations are so close together and the guard has little or no time to collect money or tickets...This has to be Addressed.
All this is a shame as there is a spare unused platform at James street station which we could utilize.
I would love also to open up the single line from Hawarden Bridge to Chester and beyond to Manchester ,which is now a cycle path. it was only 1992 that a goods train ran from Scotland to Deeside delivering logs, so it is possible with using light rail for little outlay but a lot of will .
It would be great if you could get a direct train from Neston to Manchester.
I used to live in Neston from Ireland in the 60s,but my wife does not drive and she works in the Hospital so we had to move to Wirral.
Sorry for any spelling mistakes,i am just a old ex Steelworker who used the line every day and it is in my heart

At 21:40 on 24th August 2012, kerryman commented:
Speaking to a Guard today going to Bidston on the train, and and the reason why they use Bidston to change trains is because passengers do not have to cross the line by footbridge with prams and luggage like they do at Birkenhead North and Birkenhead Park stations.
sounds plausible.....
Rob Ward
At 14:26 on 27th August 2012, Rob Ward commented:
Readers may also like to sign the petition asking the Government to reconsider awarding the West Coast Main Line to First Group.
The petition, at https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/37180, includes:
We... urge the government to reconsider the decision to award the West Coast Mainline franchise to FirstGroup. The West Coast Mainline's current value is thanks to millions of pounds of investment and commitment from Virgin Trains... they have delivered a reliable service for 15 years.
FirstGroup consistently rate amongst the worst of the train operators in passenger satisfaction surveys....
Any previous time Virgin have lost a bid in a rail tender the winner has failed to deliver promised plan and revenue....
At 23:02 on 27th August 2012, cheshire_guy commented:

I'd like to pick up on the "we.... urge" statement.

The WCML was improved largely due to a £9bn modernisation programme paid for in the end by the tax payer after the improvement of the WCML in part brought about the demise of Railtrack.

The new Pendolinos which were purchased by leasing agent Angel Trains are leased to Virgin Trains, the Pendolinos might have Virgin branding on them but they do no belong to Virgin. Virgin also had nothing to do with the extension of Pendolinos from 9 to 11 cars, again paid for by the leasing agent, with Network Rail footing the bill for station modification to handle the new longer trains.

Despite 10 years of disruption, £9bn, £500m of compensation paid to Virgin of which passenger saw none of and a fleet of 57 new electric trains, despite all this Virgin Trains still languishes at the bottom of the punctuality table, with a 2011/12 punctuality of just 86%.

First Trans Pennine operates a good service, with new clean trains serving many key North West and Norther destinations. Also it doesn't do a bad job with the GWML considering it only has a fleet of 40 year old diesel trains.

I'm not too concerned who runs the West Coast, I just wish Virgin would be upfront and honest, rather than claiming they single handedly transformed the WCML.

The company may have brought some glitz to a dull pre BR railway, but be in no doubt the tax payer paid for most of these improvements do to the importance of the WCML for passengers and freight.
Rob Ward
At 07:57 on 3rd October 2012, Rob Ward commented:
Cheshire Guy - Thanks for the details about Virgin's contribution.
Thanks to any readers who signed the petition. On the BBC website this morning:
'The decision to award the West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup has been scrapped and the government says the bidding process must be rerun.
Ministers say there were "significant technical flaws" in the way the risks for each bid were calculated.'
I now wonder what technical flaws they may have made in deciding on the high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham?

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