Network Rail hits back at claims it's making Wigan schoolchildren walk ‘dangerous’ routes
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Ladies Lane bridge in Hindley is being replaced due to the electrification upgrade on the railway line, meaning there have been weeks of closures. This means that streets connected have become “like a cul-de-sac, and normal bus routes have been diverted.
Coun Chris Ready, portfolion holder for Communities and Neighbourhoods at Wigan Council, has been working with his ward peers to try and sort alternative transport to buses for schoolchildren, which he believes Network Rail should have provided.
Although there is no legal obligation to provide minibuses for schoolchildren as a result of these works, Network Rail did look into this option but found ‘inadequate turning points’ for their vehicles to get around. This means that a number of children face a walk of just over a mile to the nearest bus stop for transport.
“There are people in Network Rail’s offices saying it’s safe to walk, I wouldn’t expect my children to walk,” Coun Ready said. “Weather can be atrocious and the Network Rail said it was a safe route to walk.
“They did the work and it’s their responsibility to sort this. Network Rail said they don’t want to pay for it.
“These kids have missed out on education through no fault of their own (during the Covid pandemic). I’m disappointed as there is a danger for kids getting to school, the education aspects and then you have a multi-million bridge replacement yet they can’t put something together to get these kids to school.”
Local charity Thrive had been putting on a minibus service for the children in the affected areas, but that came to an end after the Easter holidays. The charity said they did this using their own minibus and paying for petrol out of their own pocket ‘for the good of the community’.
This minibus idea was not set up through Wigan Council or Network Rail. Thrive said they were just ‘happy to help’ and gave the driver Sandy, in his 80s, a special mention for his driving duties.
Currently Coun Ready is working with Transport for Greater Manchester to try to arrange support for the parents of the children wanting to go to school. Nothing is in place so far.
Network Rail stated that it does not believe this route for children to walk is dangerous – this is due to the fact that road closures mean there is much less traffic going through. However, the cranes in use at the bridge means that the pedestrian walkway across Ladies Lane bridge will be closed on certain days when this is operational.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We looked at whether we could run shuttle buses during the closure of Ladies Lane bridge for the Wigan to Bolton electrification upgrade. Unfortunately, they weren’t possible due to there being inadequate turning points for the large vehicles at either end of the diversionary route.