JUBILANT Wigan business leaders have welcomed a huge railway scheme which they say will transform the borough.
They were speaking after Transport Minister Theresa Villiers confirmed that the Government is considering the £500m project put forward by a consortium of local authorities and track infra-structure authority Network Rail.
The ‘Northern Hub’ plan means new lines and links to end congestion and increase capacity of Manchester’s Piccadily and Victoria stations plus their feeder lines - including Wigan.
If the work goes ahead it will vastly improve Wigan’s rail communications, allowing an extra two trains every hour to Manchester.
A simplified routing would also trim 12 minutes off the journey time between Wallgate and the city, allowing commuters to get to Manchester from Wigan in just 25 minutes.
Proposals include linking Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria stations with a new section of track, at a cost of about £85m along with plans to refurbish Manchester Victoria station, turning it into a major interchange.
If successful, work could begin in April 2014.
Wigan’s cabinet member for the economy, Coun David Molyneux, said: “This promises to be excellent news for the borough and the local economy.
“The scheme will deliver new trains, more trains and more reliable services for local passengers.
“There is potential for two extra trains from Wigan to Manchester every hour, with journey times slashed by up to 12 minutes, and better access to our area from other parts of the region too.
“And for wider connectivity, 110mph travel in inter-city style coaches would bring Wigan within about 25 minutes of Manchester, as well as complementing services much further afield.
Borough business bosses are also now calling for the delivery of the ambitious project “in full.”
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce - which incorporates Wigan - hammered home it’s support for the Northern Hub project to Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening and have asked for a meeting.
In the letter, they stated the crucial importance of infrastructure investment to the economy.