MPs express concern about plans to reroute rail services away from Wigan

A taskforce has been working on plans to improve rail service reliability across the North West of England.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:39 pm
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:40 pm
A TransPennine Express train

However, its proposals have sparked local alarm as all three options on the paper involve the fast services from Cumbria to Manchester Airport, which currently go through Wigan North Western, being routed via Bolton instead.

As well as losing a key link to the city centre it is feared this could seriously undermine the viability of the £15m scheme to provide a new station at Golborne.

The frequency of services from Atherton could also be reduced under the plans.

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Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

However, while both Labour and Conservative MPs across the borough are asking ministers for a rethink, there is still some political friction over the issue.

Leigh MP James Grundy criticised Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux over his intervention in the debate, saying the town hall chief had not written to him or Bolton West MP Chris Green as he had claimed.

Coun Molyneux urged borough parliamentarians to get involved, but Mr Grundy said he had made representations on the issue several weeks ago.

Coun Molyneux also insisted he had communicated with the Conservative MPs' offices.

Yvonne Fovargue MP

Despite that disagreement there does, however, appear to be a consensus that the plans for the rail routes need changing.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said: “It beggars belief that under cover of Covid the Government are trying to slash our direct line to Manchester Piccadilly for the second time in two years.

“We fought these plans off once before because of the disastrous impact they would have on our commuters and on our local economy.

“Just five years ago the government announced rail investment for the north with great fanfare.

James Grundy MP

“All we have seen since then in Wigan is secret deals to cut us out of new investment and axe vital train lines. If this is their version of the Northern Powerhouse, frankly they can keep it.”

Her Labour colleague for Makerfield Yvonne Fovargue said: “I was very disappointed to read that further rail service cuts are being considered.

“Wigan could lose its fast airport service from North Western and all options contained within the consultation reduce services for long-suffering rail passengers across the towns of the borough.

“Our borough already has poor transport infrastructure with reductions in bus services over the past decade, no connection to Metrolink and we consistently miss out on transport investment.

"This is not the ‘levelling up’ agenda that the Prime Minister so often talks about! For talk is all that it is. It’s time that the Government made good on its promises.

“I have written to the Minister and will be working with fellow MPs and our local council leadership to make the case for investment and modern reliable train services serving our borough.”

Mr Grundy said that he has also made representations to the consultation about keeping the Wigan North Western to Manchester Piccadilly route in place.

At Prime Minister's Questions Mr Grundy hailed the plans for Golborne station and also successfully asked Boris Johnson to back a proposal to allow passengers to board services at Kenyon Junction.

The taskforce comprises the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Northern, TransPennine Express, Transport for the North and Transport for Greater Manchester and was set up in January 2020 to address unacceptable levels of train performance in the north west of England.

If approved, the changes would be implemented from May 2022.

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