All aboard for HS2 summit meeting

Sir David Higgins

Sir David Higgins

Wigan will play host to a meeting about the HS2 rail masterplan this week, days after its first stage cleared a parliamentary hurdle.

Business leaders from across the North West will gather at the town hall with project chairman Sir David Higgins to discuss “business opportunities.”

A report released last year said Wigan’s link to the high-speed line would cut journey times to London to around 80 minutes.

And it is predicted to have an “enormous” impact on the borough’s economy, according to authority bosses.

However, critics have questioned if the project can be delivered without seeing its costs spiralling.

Legislation for the first stage of the line - from London to Birmingham - received Royal Assent last week, meaning it has cleared three years of Parliamentary scrutiny.

Leader of Wigan Council, Lord Smith, said: “The granting of Royal Assent for phase one of HS2 is very welcome and is a milestone in making high speed rail available for the benefit of the whole of the UK.

“We are proud that Wigan will become the gateway to HS2 in the North West once phase 2 of the scheme is delivered.

“High speed rail will be vital in helping us create widespread economic benefits for our residents in the years and decades to come.”

Released in October, the Changing Britain: HS2 taking root report said the borough would reap significant benefits from its enhanced link to Manchester, Birmingham and London.

It revealed that Wigan North Western was set to become an “integrated HS2 station” and works are planned for better links with Wallgate.

However, the project has attracted criticism who claim the section of the track north of Birmingham will be jettisoned for being too expensive.

And borough activists, especially in the Lowton area, have voiced concerns that it will cause environmental damage and cause the loss of more jobs locally than it will create.

A major depot was to have been built at Golborne as part of the plan but will now be housed at Crewe.

Speaking to the Wigan Post last year, Sir David Higgins said: “Some people are not realising the big benefits that connectivity can bring and the number one reason for this whole project is the creation of jobs.

“And this isn’t an either or option: there will also be more spending at the same time on existing road and rail routes.

“You can only do so much with motorways. We are never going to end up with a 10-lane M6 because all that will happen is that traffic will fill it up again.

“In the end we have to balance the needs of the community with the overall economic benefits.”