MASSIVE new rail investment could signal a huge jobs and prosperity boost to the Wigan economy.
And borough public transport chiefs predict that it will “change the face” of train services for the first time in several generations.
Prime Minister David Cameron this week announced a far-ranging investment programme over 2014 to 2019 which he has confirmed will include more than £322m for the completion in full of the long awaited Northern Hub project providing new track and capacity into Manchester and Liverpool.
It is claimed that the Northern Hub programme has the potential to unlock £4bn of benefits to the northern economy: the equivalent of a £4 return on every £1 invested.
Extra lines on existing busy routes will provide extra capacity on the network to allow more services to run on lines that are currently congested and “bottle necked” between Wigan, Manchester and Liverpool.
The council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, MPs, the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce have calculated that it could mean as many as 30,000 extra jobs across the county with up to 700 extra trains a day.
Wigan Regional Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses John Allan said the “well thought out” transport infrastructure spending would promote growth and have a lasting positive economic legacy.
He said: “This is long overdue investment in critical infrastructure that will help small businesses better connect with their customers and suppliers.
“We have long been calling for better road and rail links to be put in place so this will be welcomed by the business community.”
Wigan Council deputy leader David Molyneux said that they welcomed the news which could “only be good” for the borough and local economy.
He said: “Wigan lies at the heart of the North West and already enjoys excellent transport links across the region.
“As well as attracting further economic investment, it’s hoped this announcement will lead to the delivery of new trains, more trains and more reliable services for local people.”
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said: “The announcement is welcome news, and long overdue. Ministers have promised investment in big infrastructure projects like the Northern Hub for the last eight months, but dithered over how to achieve them.
“It is vital that work starts immediately both to create jobs and ensure the scheme is delivered quickly. Passengers have waited too long for relief on the railways. In the meantime they will be unimpressed to hear that fares will rise immediately without real improvements until after the next election.”
Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “Our rail network does still need more investment but the improvements announced are good news for commuters and the region’s economy.
“The first High Speed Rail services are expected to arrive in Manchester in 2026. This new investment in rail and improvements to public transport services should all be in place by that time – ensuring that the benefits of high speed rail are shared across Greater Manchester and the North West.”