Controversial multi-billion pound Wigan HS2 link to be scrapped

Plans for a £3bn link to HS2 running through the borough are expected to be axed.
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The 13-mile Golborne spur would have connected the main Crewe-Manchester high-speed railway line to the west coast mainline through Golborne and Lowton.

The railway was set to run through Lowton St Mary’s, across Slag Lane on a viaduct and cut straight through Byrom Hall Wood to meet the west coast mainline (WCML) at Bamfurlong.

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Work on the project was due to begin in the early 2030s and it would have been up and running later in the same decade as part of the second phase of the service to Scotland.

Andrew Stephenson MP and HS2 ministerAndrew Stephenson MP and HS2 minister
Andrew Stephenson MP and HS2 minister

The proposals faced opposition from residents and was often the topic of debate among MPs locally and in surrounding areas, while supporters said it would turn the borough into a regional transport hub.

However, in a letter by the transport minister Andrew Stephenson, it was announced the link would be removed and alternatives will be sought.

In October 2020, the Government created the independent union connectivity review, led by the chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy, to consider how best to improve transport connectivity between the nations of the UK.

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The report proposed that that instead of the high-speed section of the route stopping with a spur at Golborne, that it instead it follows the WCML, not stopping in Wigan and heading up to end in Preston.

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In the letter, Mr Stephenson said: “Ahead of the Government’s response to the union connectivity review, we can confirm the Government will look again at alternatives which deliver similar benefits to Scotland as the Golborne link, so long as these deliver for the taxpayer within the £96 billion envelope allocated for the integrated rail plan.

"We will look at the potential for these alternatives to bring benefits to passengers sooner, allowing improved Scotland services from Manchester and Manchester Airport, as well as from Birmingham and London. HS2 trains will continue to serve Wigan and Preston, as well as Lancaster, Cumbria and Scotland.

“The Government, therefore, intends to remove the Golborne link from the High-Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill after second reading.

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"That means that we will no longer be seeking the powers to construct the link as part of this scheme. The Crewe-Manchester HS2 mainline will remain in the bill as before. Plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail will also be unaffected.”

The Pendle MP added: “We will publish a supplement to the January 2022 HS2 Crewe – Manchester scheme strategic outline business case, setting out the implications of removing the Golborne link, prior to second reading.

“I am also publishing revised safeguarding directions for the Crewe – Manchester scheme to reflect the bill’s limits and protect the land that may be required for the construction and operation of the high speed railway.

“I am maintaining safeguarding along the Golborne link while alternatives are considered.

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"This means we plan to keep existing compensation programmes in place for affected homeowners so that they can still access support as needed. The Government periodically reviews land requirements needed for the project and updates the extent of safeguarding accordingly.”

The leader of Wigan Council, Coun David Molyneux, said: “We are extremely disappointed to have received confirmation that the Golborne Link will be removed from the HS2 Bill.

“Our stance and support of HS2 and the opportunities it would bring to our borough, positioning Wigan as a significant transport hub for the region and securing much wider benefits for our local economy, has been consistent from day one.

“This decision to move away from the original plans will have a significant impact on our communities and on the wider region, undermining the Levelling Up commitments made by government.