Conference Day Zero: Sparks Effect

I have now arrived in Liverpool, or to be more precise, Rock Ferry. My accommodation is fine, and I now have a couple of hours to relax before leaving for the delegates reception at the ACC. My journey showed me the contrast between those parts of our rail network which have had investment, and those which have not.

While I experienced the Virgin pendolino train from Glasgow to Preston – showing off the billions of pounds poured into the West Coast Main Line, the final leg of my trip from Preston into Liverpool Lime Street was a complete contrast.

Our train into Liverpool was the 25 year old “Super Sprinter”, class 156,  operated by Northern Rail. It provided a rough and noisy trip, made worse by the severe overcrowding. Two coaches were nowhere near enough for this journey, and I wouldn’t imagine that the middle of a Saturday afternoon was a peak time for the residents of Lancashire.

Because much of the journey is already done “under the wires”, there wouldn’t be a need for much in the way of electrification, and it’s a shame that this wasn’t progressed under Labour with the same vigour applied to the WCML. The line to Blackpool would need wiring up as well, and this is planned, but not for some years yet.

New clean electric trains would revitalise this line. The present service is already popular, but the well-known ‘sparks effect’ would boost patronage even further. A frequent service would help people working in Liverpool, or those who want to enjoy a night out. It these in-fill jobs that can really make the difference as much as the big ticket projects.

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