True stories from the Great Railway Disaster

A weekly chronicle of the absurdities caused by the Government's privatisation programme No 7: Trying to use Southport station
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The Independent Online
Privatisation has led to a number of bewildering changes for users of Southport station. The station serves two destinations: Liverpool with trains provided by Merseyrail Electrics, and Manchester with trains from Regional Railways. It is owned by Railtrack but leased to Merseyrail which is responsible for it.

To passengers the first indication of the change last December was the separation of the platforms and entrances. Platforms 1 to 4 are assigned to Merseyrail while 5 and 6 are for RR trains. A barrier has been erected to separate the two groups of platforms and the Regional Railways passengers have now been blocked from using the main station concourse and have to enter via a back way. Platform 4, however, cannot be used by Merseyrail trains since it is not electrified!

Some RR services are provided using locomotive-hauled stock. When the train is prepared for the return journey, the locomotives now have to go through a much more complicated shunting procedure because they are no longer able to use Platform 3 for this manoeuvre.

While there are Merseyrail staff on the station RR has decided to "destaff" their part of the station, and RR passengers cannot ask for help from the Merseyrail staff who will refuse to provide information on the grounds that RR should look after its own passengers.

Delays and cancellations are also caused when there are minor problems with RR trains because of unavailability of staff. Minor hitches used to be handled by local fitters who primarily worked for Merseyrail but now any such attention, however small, must await the arrival of personnel from the RR base at Wigan, up to an hour's journey away.

lWith thanks for information to Noel Harvey, of Ormskirk