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 Plans for Skelmersdale rail link take a step forward

Plans for Skelmersdale rail link take a step forward

Published on 18/09/2017
A rail link to Skelmersdale – the second largest town in the North West without a rail connection – could be a step closer as funding is agreed to take the plans to the next stage in development.
 
Merseytravel will be contributing up to £765,000 to the work, adding to £4.32m already set aside by Lancashire County Council to further build the case for both a new station at Headbolt Lane in Knowsley, and for a new railway branch line to Skelmersdale town centre.
 
The plan would see Merseyrail services extended on from the current terminus at Kirkby station to serve Headbolt Lane, Rainford and Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale would become the new interchange for Merseyrail, and Northern Services on to Wigan and Manchester.
 
The next step in planning will involve looking in more detail at a potential solution, developing a train service timetable to inform track design, as well as looking at the impact of a potential rail freight connection to the Knowsley Industrial Park and other surveys to understand land use, geology and land ownership.
 
Should a strong business case for the scheme be developed and appropriate funding– currently estimated to be in the region of £300m– be identified and secured, the scheme could be delivered within 10 years.
 
Merseyrail’s new trains will be running on the existing network from 2020, and trials to run them beyond the existing electrified ‘third rail’ track could help inform the scope of the Skelmersdale scheme, potentially meaning that major changes to install electrified track wouldn’t be needed. Developments in Northern trains over the next few years could also remove the requirement for lineside infrastructure and power connections as part of the project.
 
The Skelmersdale Project is led by Lancashire County Council, involving Merseytravel, West Lancashire Borough Council, Merseyrail, Northern Rail and Network Rail.
 
Said Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Transport Committee which oversees the work of Merseytravel:
 
“Our contribution to the next stage in building the case for a new station at Headbolt Lane and new rail connections to Skelmersdale is putting the Liverpool City Region’s Long Term Rail Strategy into action.
 
"While it’s still early days in a scheme that would come at significant expense, we want to help drive forward better rail connections across the City Region and beyond, better linking people to jobs and other opportunities.”
 
County Councillor Keith Iddon, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said:
"Delivering a rail connection is vital to the future prosperity of Skelmersdale and will improve people's job opportunities, and act as a catalyst for further investment from businesses and developers.
 
"Skelmersdale is a large town and should be connected to the rail network. The initial feasibility study which has already been done as part of the GRIP process shows this should deliver good value for money.
"This further study will establish some of the detail that we need to make a full business case for the significant funding that will be needed to deliver this scheme, and marks another important milestone in its development."
 
Councillor John Hodson, West Lancashire Borough Council portfolio holder for Planning, said:
“Here in West Lancashire we recognise the transformative potential of having a railway station in Skelmersdale and its relevance within the Liverpool City Region Strategic perspective and the wider role it will play in the North West Region.
 
“This is welcome news indeed and we will continue to work with our partners to achieve our mutual goals including the building of a much needed railway station in Skelmersdale."

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