THE long-awaited Halton Curve rail link is open and running for two-way traffic for the first time since 1975 ñ and the North Cheshire Rail Users Group (NCRUG) have been hailed as the ‘real heroes’ of the achievement.
Almost without exception, people have welcomed the re-opened line and what it means in terms of improved travel between Frodsham, Helsby and Liverpool.
But Cllr Andrew Dawson, who was aboard the first commuter train, while celebrating the re-opening of the link has given it only ‘two cheers.
He found the 07:16 train ‘painfully slow.’ It was timetabled to get to Liverpool from Frodsham in 43 minutes when the usual time from Runcorn to Liverpool Lime Street takes around 20 minutes.
His homeward journey was timetabled to take 28 minutes.
The difference, apparently, was that the ‘slow’ train came from Wrexham while the quicker return journey terminated at Chester.
Cllr Dawson said ”I’ve given it two, not three cheers. †This is because the Wrexham-Liverpool service (twice a day) needs to be much faster. †The Chester-Liverpool services do run faster. †
‘I’ve also marked it down because I had to have a physical ticket to travel from Frodsham and on to my office in Birkenhead as the Merseyrail system can’t use the paperless tickets. †Even more frustrating was that the paper ticket didn’t operate the Merseyrail barriers either.”
Others also discovered a number of anomalies which, it is hoped will prove to be early teething troubles only.
New Mayor of Frodsham Cllr Liam Jones said an off-peak return fare from Frodsham to Liverpool was £5.60 on the train, but if you bought a ticket from the ticket machine on the platform it was £12.50.
NCRUG member Ian Whitley said: ”There are a few issues with ticket machines giving out wrong fares, etc., for the Liverpool service but I believe it is getting sorted.
”Best to buy tickets on the train. Fifteen million has been put aside for ticket machine upgrades, but that wonít go far so I doubt if Helsby and Frodsham will see any change for a while.”
To formally mark this momentous occasion a celebration event, organised by the North Cheshire Community Rail Partnership, North Cheshire Rail Users Group, Castle Park Trust and Cheshire West & Chester Council, was held at Castle Park.
The Mayor of Frodsham, Cllr Liam Jones together with junior mayors Emily and Bailey, opened the event as they untied the ribbon on the gates surrounding the relocated and refurbished semaphore signals and levers from the Halton Curve line.
Following this the first chair of the founding North Cheshire Rail Users group, Rosemary Heeley, gave a short speech thanking everyone involved then Rosemary and current chairman Mark Warren cut the Halton Curve decorated cake before handing out slices of cake to the many people gathered in the conservatory for the occasion.
Pictures Lynda Haney