The Anonymous Widower

Between Blackpool South And Colne Stations Could Take Longer After 20th May

Tomorrow, trains between Blackpool South and Colne stations will take a few minutes under two hours.

But after the timetable change of May 20th, the journey will take an hour longer.

  • There will be a change at Preston.
  • This change will involve a wait of an hour.

I have ridden that line and in the summer, there are a lot of passengers that use it for a trip to the seaside.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Northern’s Plans For Between Preston And Ormskirk

The service on the Ormskirk Branch Line between Preston and Ormskirk stations is an infuriating one.

  • The Class 153 trains that run the service seem to be unreliable when I use it.
  • The frequency is roughly hourly and not clockface by any means.
  • Sometimes the trains are very full.
  • The signalling appears to be old-fashioned.

But it seems that from May 21st, things will be getting better.

The timetable shows the following.

  • Trains leave Ormskirk hourly from 07:01 until 23:11 and take 31 minutes to get to Preston.
  • Trains leave Preston hourly from 06:26 until 21:26 and take 30 minutes to get to Ormskirk.

Journey times are actually similar to now, so I would assume they are for a Class 153 train.

What a pity, that the round trip will take over an hour.

Northern will need two trains to run this service, but if they could do a round trip in an hour, only one train would be needed.


The Class 153 train is only a 75 mph train.

Part of the journey is along the electrified West Coast Main Line.

Northern have or soon will have faster trains in their fleet

I suspect that any one of these trains could achieve the hourly round trip.

All would offer increased capacity and better quality interiors.

The Class 769 train would handle the route with ease.

  • The train could use the electrification on the West Coast Main Line.
  • The train is faster.
  • It is a four-car train.

I doubt it will happen, but the trains could continue on the Merseyrail network, if their third-rail electrification shoes, were to be refitted.

But who knows what will happen if Merseyrail and Northern decide to bring the railways between Blackpool, Kirkby, Ormskirk, Preston, Southport and Wigan into the twenty-first century?

There’s certainly a lot happening in the area at the timetable change on May 20th.

  • Blackpool to Liverpool gets an electric hourly service.
  • Blackpool to Manchester Airport gets an hourly service, which will go electric in time.
  • Ormskirk to Preston gets a proper hourly service.
  • Wigan North Western to Alderley Edge gets a new service using Class 769 trains.
  • Wigan North Western to Stalybridge gets a revamped service using Class 769 trains.

Porterbrook’s affordable bi-mode Class 769 train seems to be fully involved.







April 15, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Shared Space In Preston

Done properly, I think shared space can transform a town or city centre.

These are pictures of the centre of Preston.

It seemed to be working well as I left, during the morning go-to-work period.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Around The Ordsall Chord

I took this walk around the Ordsall Curve.

I’d taken one of Manchestewr’s free city centre buses and a walk to the Spinningfields area.

This Google Map shows the layout of lines in the area.

The Area Of The Ordsall Chord

The Area Of The Ordsall Chord


Walking North-East to South-West along Water Street, the bridges in order are as follows.

  • The Prince’s Bridge is a disused road bridge, noticeable because of its zig-zag construction, which will be demolished. There’s more on the bridge on this page on Manchester History.
  • Then there is the single-track line, that the Museum of Science and Industry used to run their replica locomotive.
  • The Windsor Link Railway which connect Salford Crescent and Deansgate stations, appears to share a wide bridge with the line to the museum.
  • The last bridge is the direct historic line between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly.

This Google Map shows the lines as they cross the Irwell in detail.

Across The Irwell

Across The Irwell

Note in the North-West corner of the map, the line between Salford Crescent and Manchester Victoria stations via Salford Central can be seen.

The Ordsall Chord will run in a North-South direction between this line and the line to Manchester Piccadilly.

Under Proposal in the Wikipedia entry for the chord, this is said.

The Ordsall Chord would preserve connectivity between the relocated East-West services and the city’s existing main rail interchange at Manchester Piccadilly. It would also improve rail access to Manchester Airport, which at present cannot be reached easily from Victoria. Without the chord, such operations would require for trains to be run on and then reversed back at Salford Crescent.

The would enable services such as.

  • Huddersfield, Leeds and York to Manchester Airport.
  • Leeds to Crewe without a change or a reverse in Manchester.
  • Huddersfield to London without a change.

It will also enable services on the Northern branches out of Manchester to be connected to those going South, with stops at both Victoria and Piccadilly in Manchester. This will mean that passengers needing to cross Manchester will probably be able to change trains once, rather than use the tram. it should also mean that both major Manchester stations will be able to use their capacity better, as trains will go through Manchester rather than terminate in the city.

No-one could argue that building the chord is simple, although released images show it to be dramatic.

An Artists Impression Of The Ordsall Chord

An Artists Impression Of The Ordsall Chord


  • In the image, you can see the historic Liverpool to Manchester Line behind the bridge.
  • Deansgate and Manchester Piccadilly stations are to the left with Salford Central and Manchester Victoria to the right.

After walking past the bridges, I crossed the river and followed Trinity Way virtually all the way to Salford Central station.

As I walked, I took these pictures.

The one thing that surprised me about this visit, was that propgress in the short time, they’ve had since all the legals were settled, seems to have been purposeful.

From Salford Central station, I was able to get a train to Preston, where I stayed the night.

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Will Merseyrail Rescue Croston?

Like everybody, I have been watching the news and in particular the floods in the North.

There have been several reports from the village of Croston, which has suffered particularly badly!

I don’t know the village, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and found that there is a Croston station serving the village.

This Google Map shows the village and the station.

Croston Station

Croston Station

Croston station lies on the Ormskirk Branch Line, which connects Ormskirk on the Mersetrail network around Liverpool, to Preston and the the West Coast Main Line. The Ormskirk Line one of those terrible and neglected pieces of infrastructure, left behind after the cuts of the 1960s and 1970s,

Merseyrail have ambitions to connect Liverpool to both Preston via Ormskirk and Manchester via Kirkby with new electric trains. I wrote on this in Is Liverpool Planning To Invade Manchester By Train? I said this.


In the October 2015 edition of Modern Railways, there is an article about Merseytravel looking for a new fleet of trains for their 750V DC network, which is entitled New Trains For Liverpool. This is said.

Merseytravel has indicated that it will be seeking ‘innovative proposals’ from manufacturers, with considerable emphasis being placed on the overall cost of operating the fleet rather than just the basic cost of the trains themselves. Options such as regenerative braking and onboard systems to store energy under braking to be used for acceleration will attract particular interest. The independently-powered EMU (IPEMU or battery train) concept evaluated earlier this year on a modified Class 379 in East Anglia ,might see an application here.

It does appear on a quick look, that a version of the new Aventra train, which comes with an IPEMU capability as standard might be suitable for Merseyrail, as it could connect Preston to Ormskirk and Manchester to Kirkby, without any more electrification.


Some of my thoughts in the Invading Manchester post, is based on this document, which is entitled Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy, so it is not idle speculation.

A half-hourly four-car service through Croston and other stations in the area linking to Liverpool and Preston using IPEMU trains, would not help directly with the floods, but would get people into and out of the area without needing to use a vehicle on flooded roads.

I’m sure that the engineers from Bombardier and Network Rail will ensure that an IPEMU can operate some kind of service in conditions as we’ve experienced over the last few days.

Intriguingly, I have just been reading this article in Rail Technology Magazine, which is  entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU. In a section entitled Market Applications, this is said.

Bombardier has started assessing potential customers for battery-powered trains, looking first at branch line applications. Batteries could be a solution allowing non-continuous electrified infrastructure, and emergency rescue and last-mile opportunities. 

Although emergency rescue is probably more about power loss than floods, Bombardier obviously feel that an IPEMU has some genes inserted from a cross-country vehicle.

Knowing the way Liverpudlians think, I suspect that what was said about IPEMUs for Merseyrail in the October 2015 edition of Modern Railways will happen.

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Meandering Around Lancashire

Yesterday, I went to Ipswich Town’s disastrous match at Blackburn.

I went via Liverpool, as I had at one point intended to get a flight from Liverpool Airport to Poland on the Sunday to start one of my Home Runs.

But circumstances intervened and so I was left with only the first leg of my trip – A First Class ticket to Liverpool.

These pictures tell the story of my journey.

Note :-

  1. Norton Bridge Junction is The  Two Hundred Million Pound Railway Project Of Which You’ve Probably Not Heard.
  2. Where were all the Class 319 trains in Liverpool? Only Northern Powerhouse was sitting forlornly in Platform 1! Normally, there’s half a dozen!
  3. The New Platform 7 at Liverpool Lime Street has been planned for years. And still nothing is happening.
  4. Blackburn station had no information on buses.

I’d actually taken six trains during the day.

  • A Virgin Pendelino from Euston to Liverpool
  • A Northern Rail Class 156 train from Liverpool to Wigan North Western
  • A Virgin Pendelino from Wigan North Western to Preston
  • A Northern Rail Class 156 train from Preston to Blackburn
  • A Northern Rail Class 142 train from Blackburn to Preston
  • A Virgin Pendelino from Preston to Euston

The trip up was by a roundabout route, but in some ways it illustrates the problems of trains in the area.

  • Liverpool to Preston is fully electrified, but the service is run by diesels, although from Monday, it will be run by Class 319 electric trains on a half-hourly basis.
  • As Preston to Blackpool is not electrified, usually the onward journey is a tired diesel.
  • Preston to Blackburn and Burnley is not electrified and is generally run by antique Pacers and a few Class 156 trains.
  • At the moment due to the Farnworth Tunnel problems, Manchester to Preston is not a journey for the faint-hearted.

Hopefully, it’ll all get better, when the Manchester to Preston via Bolton electrification is complete, but that won’t do anything from Preston to Blackpool, Blackburn and Burnley.

Whoever wins the new Northern Rail franchise is going to be mandated to buy 120 new carriages.

Surely, these should be Aventra IPEMUs and they should be used on these lines from or through Preston.

  • Blackpool North to Hazel Grove
  • Blackpool South To Colne
  • Preston to Barrow
  • Preston to Blackpool North
  • Preston to Leeds via Blackburn, Bolton, Halifax and Bradford
  • Preston to Manchester Victoria via Blackburn, Burnley and the Todmorden Curve.
  • Preston To Ormskirk
  • Preston to Windermere

They would probably be used on other lines in the area.

  • Liverpool to Manchester via Warrington Central
  • Manchester to Southport

These services might only need some platform lengthening, adjustments to track and signalling and a small amount of extra electrification.

The longest  section that is not electrified is that between Preston and Bradford, which is probably less than sixty miles. If necessary the gap could be shortened by  electrifying between Preston and say Rose Hill, where the Colne branch divides.

What surprises me, is that Bombardier haven’t created another demonstrator to prove the concept, just as they did at Manningtree.



October 3, 2015 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Days In Preston

It may seem strange to go for a holiday in Preston. But I had time to spare and so I went to Liverpool last Wednesday and then spent the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights in the Premier Inn at Preston, with the extension of exploring the area using the trains and then seeing Ipswich at Blackburn on the Saturday.

I have visited Preston several times and I stayed in the hotel once, because it is an easy walk from the rail station.

The council are sorting out the town with new pavements, road layout and maps on liths.

It is a great improvement and will be even better when it is completed.

It would be good if Preston station was improved, especially as it will become an electric hub for local services all over the North West, with new electric services to Blackpool, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester and possibly a few others like Colne in the next few years.

Would I use Preston as a base for a tour of the North West again?

I have one problem with Preston and that is the bad provision of gluten-free food in the town. There is only the one Pizza Express that I would trust and the Marks and Spencer doesn’t stock any gluten-free sandwiches.

Perhaps to stay near the station in Carlisle, Liverpool or Manchester would be better!

I used one of UK rail’s Rover tickets, which is called a Freedom of the North West 4 in 8 Day Rover. This is the rough availability.

The rover allows travel to Carlisle from Barrow, Dumfries, Lockerbie and Hexham.

It also covers the area bounded by the Settle-Carlisle, Barrow, Morecambe, Blackpool, Southport, Shipley to Bradford, Leeds, Halifax, Oldham, Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington Bank Quay to Helsby, Chester, Shotton, West Kirkby and New Brighton.

Available any 4 days within an 8 day period.

And you can use it on all the franchised train companies like Merseyrail, Northern, Virgin and TransPennine! It’s a two part ticket.

My Rover Ticket

My Rover Ticket

No ticket inspector seemed to give it more than a cursory glance.

I actually didn’t know the ticket existed, when I went North to Liverpool. So I should have bought the ticket at Lime Street and saved myself about a tenner. I returned via Manchester, so I used the ticket to get from Blackburn to Manchester Victoria after the match.

These tickets are certainly a good way of having a few days away and seeing the country. This map of the north west part of Northern Rail’s franchise.

Northern Rail NW Map

Northern Rail NW Map

The southern boundary of the ticket I used is roughly defined by Liverpool, Chester, Warrington and Manchester.

May 5, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Scenic Route From Preston To Blackburn

I didn’t take the direct route from Preston to Blackburn, but decided to explore the East Lancashire Line that stretches from Blackpool on the coast to Colne deep in the hills.

It is one of those rural lines, that has a lot of the flavour of the Valley Lines in South Wales. Trains are elderly, but well-turned out Class 142 and Class 150 trains, running between a series of stations, many of which have been recently upgraded. To get a better feel of the Burnley area, this is a Google Earth image of the centre of Burnley.

The Centre Of Burnley

The Centre Of Burnley

The two stations; Central and Barracks lie on the rail line that goes across the top-left corner of the image. For most of that way, the line is on a viaduct with a station at each end. Turf Moor, the home of Burnley FC is at the far right of the map.

The East Lancashire Line is very much down the list of electrification priorities, but as it has interchanges at Preston, Blackpool and Rose Grove, that are electrified or will be in a few years, the costs of electrification will be eased by the supplying of power being already there.

Some work needs to be done on the stations, but a lot is informational like the signage and local maps at Mill Hill. Some like Mill Hill and perhaps others, need improvement to their disabled access.

There is pressure to extend the line past Colne to Skipton. and it is description under South East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership. The Wikipedia article says this about the link.

The missing section of railway between Skipton and Colne is 11.5 miles in length; it was closed in January 1970 although it was not a target under the Beeching Axe.

Dr. Beeching is a hot topic, but when he said a railway shouldn’t be closed, history has in some cases like  the Varsity Line, shown him to be right.

At least with Colne to Skipton, the trackbed hasn’t been built on.

Having seen tram-trains working successfully in Germany and France, I think that if the Class 399 trains prove successful in their trials between Sheffield and Rotherham, that vehicles like this may offer a cost effective way of linking between two electrified lines. Skipton station is electrified, but Colne is not. However from Rose Grove to Preston and on to Blackpool is planned to be completely electrified in the next few years.

So as Burnley Barracks and Central, Brierfield, Nelson and Colne will effectively be on a single line branch from Rose Grove could it be electrified to perhaps only a tramway standard with occasional passing places and extended to Skipton? Intriguingly, at the other end of the line at Blackpool South the trains could then transfer to the Blackpool tram system.

It may sound all rather fanciful, but it might be easier to slot a tram track through Colne, rather than build a new railway, especially as this Google Earth image of Colne station, shows that there is the dual-carriageway A6068  and a football pitch in the way.

Colne Station

Colne Station

It would surely be cheaper to cross the main road with a tram rather than a railway track.

Surely another advantage of using tram technology is that it will be easier to add extra stops on the line.

I do think that this neglected line from Blackpool South to Colne via Preston has scope for improvement. Judging by some of the ideas in various forums on the Internet, there are a lot of ideas that get proposed by politicians, rail professionals, enthusiasts and train users.

Three things though are going to help decide what happens to this line.

If the incoming government does what is threatened at the present time and electrifies the Calder Valley Line from Preston to Leeds via Blackburn and Burnley, there will likely be a sound economic case for electrifying from Blackpool South to Preston and from Rose Grove to Colne, as both lines are mainly single track.

Electrification will also make sound sense, as there will be more than a few electric trains available, as Crossrail and Thameslink are  getting new trains and the displaced trains will be cheaper to refurbish than build new diesels.

I believe tram-trains will be a success and that these could prove ideal to extend the Blackpool tramway. Incidentally, I’ve found a report on the Sintropher website, which details how the Blackpool tramway will be made compatible with tram-trains.

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


When I got to Carlisle it was nearly four and too late to go the long way back to Preston via the Settle and Carlisle Line to Leeds and then the Calder Valley Line.

I think to be fair, if I’d planned the trip better, I could have relied on getting the 16:18 to Leeds and then the 20:05 back to Preston. But the Calder Valley Line is probably best done with the scenery illuminated!

So I decided to have a walk round Carlisle city centre and then get one of the numerous fast trains back to Preston.

The centre is compact with most places you’d want to visit within easy walking distance of the station.

What surprised me was the very big Marks and Spencer, which unlike Preston had plenty of gluten-free food, including sandwiches.  The shop was several times better than Preston. I can now understand why Preston was found to be the most unhealthy High Street in the UK.

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Lack Of Left-Luggage Facilities

On the 26th of April, Ipswich are playing in Burnley, and I shall be going.

Unfortunately, the match is on Sky and starts at 12:15, which means taking the 08:30 train to Preston out of Euston, where I change for Burnley.

It is not a difficult journey and I’ve done it before.

However, this time, I think it might be a good idea to go on holiday the next week and there is an ideal flight out of Liverpool to Gdansk on the Saturday evening.

So as it is easy to get to Liverpool Airport from Burnley, via Preston, it would be ideal.

But what do I do with my case for the holiday?

Preston is a major train interchange, but in common with most mid-sized stations in the UK, it doesn’t have any left luggage facilities.

So if I do decide to go on holiday that week, I’ll have to come home to get my case and use a more expensive flight, than the good value one out of Liverpool.

It strikes me that there is an opportunity for someone to create a nationwide system to handle left luggage.

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Business, Transport | , , | 2 Comments