HS2 bombshell stuns Wigan residents

Councillors and residents groups at the recent HS2 public information event in Golborne
Councillors and residents groups at the recent HS2 public information event in Golborne

Protestors against a controversial high-speed train line due to run through the borough are stepping up their campaign following a timetabling bombshell.

Residents’ groups and councillors in Lowton and Golborne were left dumbfounded after HS2 employees appeared to tell a public meeting most trains on the route running through that area won’t actually stop in Wigan.

In particular the HS2 services going to London which run on the route which leaves the existing West Coast Main Line at Bamfurlong to run through Lowton Common and out of the borough via Culcheth will not allow passengers to get on at Wigan North Western.

Instead those trains will pick up travellers at Preston and hurtle through the borough, only stopping again at the Birmingham Interchange before reaching the outskirts of the capital city.

There will be HS2 services from Wigan North Western but these will run on the current West Coast route to Crewe before picking up the new high-speed network.

The only service running with a stop at Wigan North Western through Lowton will be an hourly service to the planned new station at Birmingham Curzon Street.

Appalled campaigners, who have long opposed HS2, say this is not nearly enough of a return for all the disruption of construction and then having to live next to an intercity transport route.

Community groups in particular say they feel short-changed as it was commonly believed in the area that allowing the inconvenience of HS2 would result in a rapid, direct service from the borough to the capital city.

The campaigners now want a plan put forward by Warrington Council for the existing main line to be upgraded to go forward, with the Lowton line axed.

Ed Thwaite, chair of the Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum (Lendf), said: “This makes the line coming through Lowton virtually useless. We’re now going to push for it to be scrapped.

“Everybody was under the impression the line would run for trains from Wigan to London. We had to really question the reps at the meeting to get to the bottom of this.

“All along we’ve said the West Coast Main Line should be upgraded due to the destruction of the environment involved with the link route, and now it seems the Lowton line has no benefit to Wigan at all other than a Birmingham train once an hour.

“The line through Warrington has room for four tracks although it was reduced to two years ago. Upgrading it would be far better and cheaper than the Lowton line.”

Coun James Grundy, who represents Lowton East ward, said: “I’ve always been against HS2 but I think it’s absolutely astounding that basically trains going to London on the new line won’t be stopping in Wigan for people to catch,

“People in the Lowton and Golborne area would be best going to Warrington to get on HS2, where the trains run from now anyway.

“This demonstrates why people don’t support this scheme. They want better east-west connectivity, not faster trains to London, and it turns out they will barely even be getting that.”

Leigh MP Jo Platt has now met Mr Thwaite and is seeking an urgent meeting with HS2 over the timetable.

She said: “I share the concerns of people in Lowton and Golborne who have the huge impact of HS2 going through.”

Wigan Council says it still supports HS2 and has promised to continue consulting with HS2 Ltd over the timetable.

The authorities also stressed a consultation on the latest plans is running until December 21 and the proposals could yet change.

An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State confirmed the preferred route for the railway between Crewe and Manchester in July 2017.

“HS2 Ltd considered a range of alternative options for the route, and has published its findings as part of the public consultation which is currently under way. We actively encourage communities to respond to the consultation and have their say.”