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Issue:- Saturday Night, 12 December 2015

Headlines and reports on this page = 3 news items.    Page - 5.

Franchise awards to bring better quality rail services to the Liverpool City Region

PEOPLE travelling to and from the Liverpool City Region, and within it, are set to benefit from more and better quality rail services following the announcement of the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchise awards Wednesday, 9 December 2015.

The most notable change is the introduction of a direct service; 3 services a day; between Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow, avoiding the need for travellers to change at Wigan or Preston.

Meanwhile, connections between the Northern Cities will be more frequent and there will be improved services between Southport and Manchester, including more evening services.

While the franchises have been awarded by DfT, for the first time the specifications for bidders to meet were drawn up jointly by DfT and Rail North; a consortium of the 29 transport authority areas in the North, including:- Merseytravel; to ensure that they best reflect local need and support economic growth.

A key factor for Merseytravel was ensuring that people using the City line, such as those living in places like St Helens, Huyton and Newton-le-Willows benefit from similar service standards to those who have access to the MerseyRail Network, including improved evening and Sunday services.

► Direct services to Scotland. A new direct TransPennine Express service; 3 services a day; from Lime St to Glasgow, removing the need to change at Preston or Wigan. In addition, an hourly direct TransPennine Express service to Edinburgh (via Newcastle).

► Improved connections between the Northern cities, with a commitment to four fast services an hour (TransPennine Express and Northern) between Lime Street and Manchester and 2 per hour between Liverpool, Leeds and York (TransPennine Express), as well as more services to Preston (Northern and TransPennine Express)

► Improved evening and Sunday services on the City Line, benefitting people living in places such as in Huyton and St Helens.

► Improved services between Southport and Manchester, including more evening services.

► A new hourly (Northern) service from Southport right through to Leeds via Manchester and either Bradford or Dewsbury.

► An early Northern Service from Lime St to Manchester Airport (arriving no later than 0445).

► Daily services to Manchester Airport via both Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Central.

► Over 500 new build carriages will be introduced across both franchises, across the North, with Pacer units withdrawn by 2020.

► Longer trains and more frequent services will mean commuters benefit from increased capaCity.

Said Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel and Chair of the Rail North:- "This is a big step forward, not only in better connecting the Liverpool City Region to other Cities to make the most of employment and leisure opportunities to support economic growth, but also in driving up standards for people who live locally.  I have always been conscious that the City Region's Rail Network is in two halves and the standards people enjoy can vary greatly depending on postcode. This isn't acceptable.  The MerseyRail Network is managed locally and scores consistently highly for reliability and customer satisfaction, while the City Line is part of the national Rail Network and standards lag behind.  Being part of Rail North has given us the opportunity to influence the franchising process beyond a 'like for like' to better tailor it to support the Liverpool City Region's transport and growth ambitions and improve consistency and standards across the board."

People will benefit from some additions and changes to service from December 2017 when the timetable changes, which have to be scheduled well in advance and agreed nationally, will 1st be able to reflect the services outlined in the successful bids.

It is likely to be December 2019 before services that require new rolling stock to operate them will be added to the timetables.

Robert Hough, Chair of Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership said on behalf of the Linking Liverpool campaign, "This is excellent news for the people and businesses of Liverpool City Region and is a key milestone in realising our wider transport connectivity ambitions. It shows what we can achieve when all partners in the City region work together to achieve a common goal and the importance of the business community coming together in our Linking Liverpool campaign.  We will now continue to campaign working with Transport for the North and the Government for the very best transport connectivity for the City region."

Charity searching for angels to help older people this winter

THE dangers of icy and wet footpaths can result in older and vulnerable people being left stranded in their homes during bad weather. Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking, is urging people to become:- 'Snow Angels' to help reduce feelings of isolation this winter.

A 'Snow Angel' is simply someone who clears ice and snow from outside their house and their neighbours', if they are less able to do so themselves.

Becoming a Snow Angel is as easy as equipping yourself with rock salt and sparing a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day to grit. Alternatively, you can get in touch with your local Council and find out if they have a volunteer scheme you can join.

Alan Benson, 46, is a wheelchair user. He finds getting around in icy weather very difficult and in the past has not left his home for a month due to a fear of falling out of his chair.  Alan Benson says:- "I had my very own Snow Angel once; I don't think they even realised. I lived in a block of flats and one winter it snowed heavily. It was particularly treacherous and very nasty. Someone kept clearing the outside path from the front door so I could get out. I'm forever grateful; it was such a generous act. I think it would be great if people became Snow Angels this winter. It can make such a difference to people's lives."

Sophie 7, Michael 5 and Hannah Thompson 3 are Snow Angels in their village, just outside Elgin in Scotland. Together with their dad, Chris, they clear paths with a homemade, push along plough.  Chris Thompson says:- "The children push the plough about 100 metres up and down our street to help clear access to our elderly neighbours' houses.  They know how the snow and ice can create problems for our neighbours and stop them going out to the shops or to see friends. They like to help me as much as they can to make sure they can still get out and about in the bad weather. Plus, they enjoy being able to build a much bigger snowman with the snow they collect."

Dave Taylor, Regional Director (North West), Living Streets, said:- 'Each year thousands of people in the UK are admitted to hospital after slipping on ice or snow. This prevents a lot of people from leaving the house during bad weather, which can result in loneliness and all the health problems associated with not being fit and active.  We hear a lot about the importance of gritting and making roads safe for drivers, but pavements and walkers are often overlooked. This winter, we are urging not only the government to ensure these people are not forgotten, but also asking everybody to think about their neighbours.'

More than 200 snow angels will be recruited around the country to help communities this winter. Visit the Living Streets website to find out more about being a Snow Angel and how you can join them. 

If you're already a 'Snow Angel' or have benefitted from 1, Living Streets would love to hear from you. Please email us your story to our newsroom via:- news24@southportreporter.com!

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