The Anonymous Widower

Would A Lower Cost Rail Link To Skelmersdale Be Possible?

In the Wikipedia entry for Skelmersdale railway station, there is a section called Reopening Proposals, where this is said.

Skelmersdale has been described as the largest town in North-West England that doesn’t have a railway station, although Leigh, Greater Manchester, which also has no station is larger.

This section called 2022, gives the latest status of the proposals to connect Skelmersdale to the UK rail network.

Government reinforces that the station proposals are being considered. Rosie Cooper calls for the new Rail Minister to visit Skelmersdale, in order to aid the DfT’s decision. However, the Department for Transport announced in July 2022 that it was rejecting the Strategic Outline Business Case, throwing the scheme into doubt. The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the town of Skelmersdale.

Skelmersdale is a town with an extensive road network, with good links to the M58 motorway.

I would suspect, that those who don’t have access to a car or some other form of personal transport, are second-class citizens.

According to Wikipedia, in the latest statement from the DfT, this was said.

The DfT instead suggested that better bus links with the Kirkby–Wigan rail line would be a cheaper way of improving connectivity for Skelmersdale.

I would simplify the DfT statement by removing the word bus. All transport links should be improved.

Consider.

  • By the end of 2023, there will be five stations between Kirkby and Wigan; Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton.
  • Upholland station is the nearest to Skelmersdale.
  • Headbolt Lane station is being built with approximately 300 car parking spaces.
  • Rainford station has ten car parking spaces.
  • Upholland station has no car parking.
  • Orrell station has no car parking.
  • Pemberton station has no car parking.
  • From Google Maps it doesn’t look promising to add parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Only Headbolt Lane station will have bicycle parking.
  • Headbolt Lane station will have direct rail access to Liverpool.
  • Headbolt Lane, Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations will have direct rail access to Wigan and Manchester.
  • Headbolt Lane station will be built with provision for buses.
  • Skelmersdale bus station is at the main shopping centre in the centre of the town.

After Headbolt station opens in 2023, I would do the following.

  • Provide a high-capacity bus service between Headbolt Lane station and Skelmersdale.
  • Provide secure bicycle parking at Rainford, Upholland, Orrell and Pemberton stations.
  • Investigate a bus service between Upholland station and Skelmersdale.
  • Monitor all passenger movements in the area, to see whether a rail link is needed.

Once Headbolt Lane station and the new services settle down, it should be possible to make a good estimate of the number of passengers who would use the rail link.

These are my thoughts on a lower-cost service to a new Skelmersdale station.

The Current Plan For A Branch To Skelmersdale

This map from OpenRailwayMap shows the proposed future railway between Skelmersdale and the Wigan and Kirkby Line.

Note.

  1. The new branch to Skelmersdale is shown dotted.
  2. The Northern end of the branch is in the Concourse shopping centre in Skelmersdale.
  3. The branch goes under the M 58 Motorway.
  4. The branch joins the Wigan and Kirkby Line in a triangular junction.
  5. Rainford station is to the West of the junction.
  6. Upholland station is to the East of the junction.

It could be a complete solution.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Liverpool?

I feel the design of Headbolt Lane station precludes this, as there doesn’t appear to be a line through Headbolt Lane station, as all three platforms are terminal platforms, with two serving Liverpool and one serving Wigan and Manchester.

Passengers would need to change at Headbolt Lane station, if travelling between Skelmersdale And Liverpool.

Will There Be A Direct Service Between Skelmersdale And Manchester?

This would appear to be possible.

Could The Original Route Be Used?

The original Skelmersdale Branch ran between Rainford and Ormskirk, with a station on the West side of Skelmersdale.

This Google Map shows the route.

Note.

  1. Skelmersdale town centre and the Concourse shopping centre are in the North-East corner of the map.
  2. The M 58 motoway runs across the top of the map.
  3. The dark green scar of the Skelmersdale branch runs down the West side of the map.
  4. Just below, where the motorway and the old railway cross, there is a large landfill.
  5. Rainford station on the Wigan and Kirkby Line is towards the bottom of the map.

I wonder, if a lower-cost track layout could be slotted in partially using the route of the old railway.

  • It would be mainly single track.
  • The branch would only connect to Headbolt Lane station.
  • A passing loop would be needed to run two trains per hour (tph).
  • It might be possible to slot a single-track through to the centre of Skelmersdale.

Would it be an alternative, if a Park-And-Ride station were built near or on top of the landfill?

What Would Be The Train Service?

Southport station has the following services.

  • Four tph to and from Liverpool
  • Two tph to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester

I think reasons of fairness would dictate that Skelmersdale has a two tph service to both Liverpool and Manchester.

It is also worth looking at the services through Wigan Wallgate station.

  • 1 tph – between Southport and Alderley Edge via Westhoughton and Manchester Piccadilly
  • 1 tph – between Southport and Stalybridge via Westhoughton and Manchester Victoria
  • 1 tph – between Kirkby and Blackburn via Atherton and Manchester Victoria

The third service does not run on Sundays. This is surely an omission in the timetable, that should be rectified.

Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

As I said earlier Headbolt Lane station is a station with three terminal platforms, two of which will have trains to and from Liverpool and the other will have trains to and from Wigan Wallgate and Manchester.

If Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations are connected by a route using the original branch, it would be possible to run a service between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale stations with a reverse at Headbolt Lane station.

Note.

  1. The Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate Line is double-track and all stations have two platforms.
  2. A passing loop on the Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale section would probably be needed for two tph.
  3. Passengers between Skelmersdale and Liverpool would change at Headbolt Lane station.
  4. There would be no changes to services between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane stations and they would remain at 4 tph.
  5. Preferably, Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale would operate at two tph.
  6. All stations between Wigan Wallgate and Headbolt Lane would get two tph to Manchester.
  7. I estimate that Wigan Wallgate to Skelmersdale is less than twenty miles.
  8. In Bolton-Wigan £78m Rail Electrification Project Announced, I indicate that Wigan Wallgate station will be electrified.

The service to Manchester could either be direct or with a change at Wigan Wallgate to a Southport service.

A Shuttle Train Between Wigan Wallgate And Skelmersdale Via Headbolt Lane

This may be an alternative to running the Skelmersdale service all the way to Manchester.

  • Services would terminate in the bay Platform 3 at Wigan Wallgate station.
  • Passengers to and from Manchester would catch a Southport train.
  • The frequency of the shuttle train would be two tph.

Using a shuttle would need less trains.

Rolling Stock

The Wikipedia entry for the Kirkby branch line, shows the service being run by a Class 150 train, which are diesel-powered.

Services on the Manchester and Southport Line are run by a variety of diesel multiple units and all Class 769 trains.

If the platforms at Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale are built to handle four-car trains, then Northern have any number of diesel multiple units and the Class 769 trains, which could run the service.

But there is also the possibility of using battery-electric multiple units, like the Class 321 BEMU train, that I wrote about in Eversholt Rail And Vivarail To Develop Class 321 BEMU.

  • The distance between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale is probably about twenty miles.
  • Charging would be needed at Skelmersdale station.
  • Wigan Wallgate would need an electrified route to Manchester.
  • It also appears that the Class 321 BEMU, which will have a 30 minute range could handle the Wigan Wallgate and Southport leg on batteries.
  • If a battery-electric shuttle train is used between Wigan Wallgate and Skelmersdale, it would be charged at both ends of the route.

It appears to me, that if Network Rail electrify between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester, then services between Manchester and Kirkby, Skelmersdale and Southport could be run by Class 321 BEMU trains, which with their Renatus interiors will not be British Rail trains rescued from the scrapyard.

It will also mean passengers between Liverpool and Skelmersdale will be using two smart trains.

Conclusion

Consider.

  • New track should be the minimum possible between Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale stations.
  • Network Rail must electrify between Manchester and Wigan Wallgate.
  • Class 321 BEMU trains should be used between Manchester and Headbolt Lane, Skelmersdale and Southport.

I believe that there is an affordable solution to the provision of electric train services to Skelmersdale somewhere in my ramblings.

 

 

August 26, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,

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