A stay in Southport in brilliant sunshine this week brought forth a shoal of images and lasting impressions - several worth sharing. No trams of course, but a fast frequent electric train service down to neighbouring Liverpool.
Southport's railway terminus exterior has nothing to commend it; much like Blackpool North. But inside, its surviving platforms at least retain a classic glass roof - a leftover remnant from glory days of steam and services to Preston as well as Liverpool. The concourse and precinct is very much one which a traveller seeks to pass through as quickly as possible to emerge into a half decent shopping street dominated at one end by an ever present empty BHS property - the bankrupt memorial from a certain Green family to town centres up and down Britain. Sound familiar?
Below : brutalist concrete facade vision of a brave postwar world. More like 1984.
Inside all light and airy leftover from Victorian and Edwardian railway architectural design - even to the extent of actual living foliage. Only the dreaded 'Pacer' in the background to spoil this agreeable impression.
Bright yellow and pale grey are hallmark of Merseyrail and its many electric units. An example is awaiting clearance in bright morning sunlight at Southport station.
Lord Street retains its classic facades and upmarket image, even if there are an increasing number of vacant storefronts and for sale/to let signs liberally sprinkled on the northern tier of this still eminent shopping street. The main bus operator (there are of course several on view) is Arriva in distinctive clean turquoise and pale cream livery. However local traveller and resident beware; because German cousins are in fact the corporate owners of this familiar British bus (and train) operator. It says so on the back of their vehicles (well not all) : but down there in the fine print usually reserved for the 'terms and conditions' or ingredients section of retail packaging is the familiar
Deutsche Bahn logo of Arriva's parent company. So once distinctive red and cream buses of this former municipal transport operator (very seperate from Merseyside green and cream) are now helping with financial largesse to German pension funds and state owned railway company DB - successor to Deutsche Reichsbahn of yore. I wonder how the good citizens of Stuttgart or Coblenz would feel if their local transport was currently being delivered by a British Railways operating subsidiary !
Arriva 2142 - Lord Street, Southport - the back end of the bus discloses the real owner of this piece of UK urban transport (in the small print under the company brand).
Lord Street and indeed much of Southport, boasts clean and smart looking bus shelters. Blackpool Council take note. No broken roof panels, dirty glazing, or shambolic signage. Lord Street has benefitted from investment by the regional transport authority - Merseytravel - in new shelters which benefit from having been designed by professionals; as opposed to back of a fag packet kits sourced at knock down prices from somewhere in eastern or central europe - of the type now scarring Blackpool's seafront tramway. Plenty of designer bench seating for a significant elderly and ageing market - together with oodles of wooden seats along Lord Street - make it all user friendly. The seeming absence of drunks, drug dependents and beggars being equally noteworthy, contrasting with the social disrepair which has become a hallmark of Blackpool town centre. However one blight on Southport's streetscape is the presence of maurauding parking officers in dark blue uniforms sent out by Sefton Council to fleece unwary visitors of £60 fines and more; even for discarding a cigar butt on the pavement (according to our hotel doorman). It seems Sefton are so desperately in need of revenue that they engage a small malignant army of highwaymen sent forth each morning from 0800 sharp - spreading out in pincer movements to entrap late sleepers (car owners) by camera and computer. I managed to get up early to witness this daily ritual literally from 0800 and secured my car from assertive ticketing.
Clean (very clean) bus shelters for Southport citizens courtesy of Merseytravel complete ample seating - unlike the uninviting utilitarian offer in Blackpool. Bright yellow and metallic structures help the streetscape with clear service signage as well (below).
Merseytravel have new trains on order to replace most, if not all of their rolling stock on electric services in and around Merseyside. Even so, the existing units are well maintained and brightly painted with capital work ongoing (or completed now) in the Liverpool underground section. An extensively retiled, relit, and well signed station greeted us at Liverpool Moorfield where my meeting beckoned near to this central district stop. Smiling friendly station staff on hand as well - quite obviously not part of Sefton Council's setup approach to their public. Below : Example of a privately managed retailing jewel just off Lord Street with independent retailers and services - exuding quality and attention to detail by its management. The all weather original canopy (upgraded) says it all.....
Welcome to Southport - offering visitors a change from the predictable shopping malls