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Tributes pour in for campaigner with ‘lifelong passion for rail connectivity’

Tributes pour in for campaigner with ‘lifelong passion for rail connectivity’

by Danielle Thompson (September 2021)

TRIBUTES have flooded in for a father of four who campaigned to improve Southport’s rail connections.

Dr Jim Ford, who leaves behind a wife, three daughters and a son, as well as his grandchildren, lived in Southport and was instrumental in the campaign to save the resort’s transport links to Manchester, as well as helping to save the Southport Model Railway Club’s clubrooms on Portland Street.

Ian Shulver, honorary chair of the Southport Model Railway Society said: “He joined the Society in 1974 just two years after the Club in its present guise started. Since then Jim has been a stalwart member of the society, taking on all the offices of Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and recently Exhibition Manager.

“Most of the layout appearing at the forthcoming exhibition in November were arranged by Jim and the show will be a fitting tribute to him. Jim was a well respected railway modeller with many interests in the hobby and its different scales and gauges. Over the last few years he was particularly interested in garden railway and his own garden layout was a joy to be seen. As well as model railways, Jim had innumerable other interest from boat to beer, and more.

“We will remember Jim for be his drive and energy in helping to save our present clubrooms on Portland Street. This building, now listed and fully restored, was part of the first station in Southport, Eastbank Road but only lasted as such from 1848 to 1850. Jim will be sadly missed for his wit, energy and knowledge.”

Alan Fantom, chairman of Ormskirk Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association said: “Jim was a man who cared and thought deeply about what should be done in any given situation. He once described himself to me as ‘the ideas man’ and he had plenty but was not precious about his suggestions being adopted and was more interested in working with others and hearing all views in order to get the best possible outcome.

“He was also an instigator of action. He was there at the inception of OPSTA and remained actively involved for the next 40 years. It is safe to say that he had some influence in the broadening of the group to include the Southport line.

“In 2008 with David and Pat Sumner he started what by the following year became the Friends of Meols Cop station and has been its chairman from the outset, during which time it has won awards and nowadays it is recognised as an important station with all services stopping there including on Sundays.

“In recent years a small discussion group with then-Southport MP John Pugh was in recognition of the impending threat of a loss of the Manchester Piccadilly and Airport services mobilised into the Southport Rail Transport Forum which spearheaded the campaign to fight this. It was Jim’s determination and tenacity to uncover what was really being discussed and by whom through Freedom of Information requests that culminated in an awkward Prime Minister’s Question and a recognition in the rail industry that it could be held to account if it didn’t listen to its passengers. Most of the time he was quietly spoken but he was always heard. He believed passionately in railways and in what is the best for Southport. He was very astute and did nothing for his own gain, it was always for the benefit of others.”

Christine McGregor, chair of the Southport Station Improvement Project added: “Jim was that rare, selfless individual who encouraged sensible, intelligent debate on the wider impact of policy decisions on critical social and economic issues but also ‘walked the talk’. From his major input on the  campaign to save the direct  Southport - Manchester Piccadilly and Airport rail service, to his key contribution to improve the Southport Station environment as a member of the Southport Station Improvement Project, Jim epitomised the best of a generation whose sense of civic duty was in speaking truth to power, but with humour. The town of Southport has lost a true friend.”

Dukes Ward Councillor John Pugh added: “Jim was a lovely kind, perceptive, humble and thoughtful man who cared deeply for his community. I first encountered him through local politics but found there was nothing in his socialism that stood in the way of genuine friendship and co-operation.
“We worked for many years together on his life long passion for better railway connectivity, particularly for Southport. No-one could better his knowledge or match his commitment in that cause. Jim worked to get things done, indifferent to who got the credit.”

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