WIGAN business and political leaders are hailing a massive investment in the area’s railways.
The infrastructure boost will provide new tracks and electrification to meet the growing demand for train transport allowing more services which will help reduce over-crowding.
Schemes include major improvements to Golborne Junction - the intersection of West Coast Main Line and the Manchester to Liverpool (Chat Moss) rail route - where extension of the existing £400m North West Electrification Programme will speed connections between both lines by December.
The Northern Hub scheme will remove “pinch points” into Manchester’s two city centre stations allowing outlying towns like Wigan to run more services.
Network Rail’s strategic business plan for the next five years - which has been submitted to the Office of Rail Regulation - contains a plan they pledge which will help drive Britain’s economy and, they pledge, help make its railway as “efficient as the best in Europe.”
Network Rail’s managing director for the London and North Western route (incorporating Wigan) Dave Crowther said: “Our route plan sets out the investment we are making for the future, with a particular focus on new technology and electrification to help create a bigger, better railway in the North West.
“In just seven years’ time we will have dramatically improved rail travel between the key towns and cities of the North West, enabling the provision of more trains and more seats to help drive economic growth.
“However, as our route gets busier our challenges get bigger and more complex and despite these plans, in less than a decade the busiest parts of the West Coast Main Line will be full as passenger numbers will keep on growing.
Wigan’s Transport Policy Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Emma Antrobus, said it was delighted to see the scale of investment planned for projects providing a transformation of rail services for Greater Manchester.
She added: “Rail improvements are vital to supporting the economies of the major cities of the North and it is important to deliver for the short to medium term with the Hub and electrification, as well as having the vision for the long term with the plans for HS2 to address the capacity issues on the WCML.”
Deputy Leader of the council, Coun David Molyneux, said: “Wigan has a real advantage in where it is located on the rail network in the North West.
“An increased investment in the North West rail infrastructure and the provision of more trains will be a welcome boost to the local economy and will undoubtedly encourage business to see Wigan as a place to relocate to and invest in.
“This proposed investment will also provide existing businesses with expansion opportunities by offering even easier access to London and Glasgow, both of which would be commutable in less than two hours.”
Wigan Labour MEP Brian Simpson - Labour’s European transport spokesman lives in Golborne - said that commitment to the Northern Hub is “absolutely crucial” if we are to encourage economic regeneration, strengthen social inclusion and deliver on improved railway infrastructure for passengers and rail users in the region.
He said: “Network Rail’s investment in rail infrastructure is most welcome, but that needs to come in conjunction with improvements in rolling stock provisions and more frequent services, so we can put an end to overcrowding on our trains.
“There are times when trains in and out of Manchester resemble the Black Hole of Calcutta rather than a service on the so-called ‘modern’ railway.”