Wigan Council leader condemns 'catastrophic' plans to slash rail services

Coun David Molyneux says a recently-published paper on rail routes in the region could significantly impact the borough.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 3:42 pm
A service currently running through the borough could be re-routed to Bolton

A taskforce is drawing up plans to improve service reliability across the North West.

However, each of the three options would see the hourly fast train service from Cumbria to Manchester Airport via Wigan North Western diverted to run via Bolton instead and the frequency of services from Atherton reduced at both peak and off-peak periods.

Concerns have already been raised that this might scupper the viability of the £15m scheme to reconnect Golborne to the rail network.

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Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has also previously slammed the plans under consideration.

And now Coun Molyneux has hit out at the proposals as well.

He said: "Greater Manchester rail passengers have been experiencing poor performance for too long. Alternative solutions, such as improved infrastructure, must be explored before passengers are further penalised with reduced levels of service.

“The taskforce was supposed to recommend improvements to rail services, not make an already poor service worse.

"If approved, these options would have catastrophic consequences for local commuters and businesses and would seriously hamper our aspirations for world-class connections that support long-term, sustainable economic growth and access to opportunity for all.”

Coun Molyneux said he too shares worries about the viability of a new Golborne station should the taskforce's ideas be adopted.

He said: "Residents and politicians have been fighting for a train station in Golborne for years, but these options undermine all that work, with the removal of the airport line detrimental to this particular scheme.

"The north should have never been put in the position of deciding which services to axe to reach a minimal acceptable level of performance.

"This is not levelling up; this is another example of the north being left behind.”

Coun Molyneux has now written to all the borough's MPs urging them to oppose the proposals and push for alternative options to be considered.

Ms Nandy previously wrote a furious letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, saying she was "gobsmacked" at the prospect of local services being cut.

She said ministers would be breaking promises to the people of Wigan and Leigh if the plans in the paper were adopted and said running a consultation during Covid-19 was "insulting".

A consultation about the plans commenced on Friday January 15 and will close on Wednesday March 10. If plans are approved in spring, the changes will be implemented from May 2022.

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.

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