WIGAN could soon be home to the swiftest trains in the country as a key destination on a super-fast rail network.
The controversial High Speed Two (HS2) project could slash journey times from the North West to London to under an hour, with trains potentially reaching speeds of more than 200mph.
Although it had been widely assumed the service would only come as far north as Manchester, plans released by the Department for Transport show it potentially extending deep into the borough, joining the West Coast Mainline at a junction in Bamfurlong near Lily Lane.
Services to Manchester city centre would instead be served by a separate line extending from just north of Crewe, leaving the line from Birmingham to run into Wigan via Culcheth, Golborne and Lowton to return to the current rail network just a few miles short of Wigan North Western.
The plans also include the construction of a job-spinning rolling stock maintenance depot between Golborne and Lowton Common and a large bridge to carry a realigned Slag Lane over the track.
The HS2 project, praised by PM David Cameron during a rail journey to the North yesterday, is also backed by many of the region’s leading business figures who argue a high-speed link is vital to the North’s competing with more affluent areas and to redressing the country’s economic over-reliance on London.
And Wigan Council leader Lord Smith said: “We welcome the boost to the local economy HS2 will bring. The high speed line is proposed to come through the borough to connect with the West Coast Main Line, providing high speed connections to Birmingham, London, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.
“As well as reducing journey times, the new line will also free up capacity on the existing rail network and bring employment opportunities to the borough. As many as 150 jobs could be created in Golborne, where a rolling stock maintenance facility would be built.
“We await further details relating to the route and will need to assess the implications and benefits this significant infrastructure project will provide.”
But with the railway slicing through Lowton and running up through sites on the edge of Ashton plus the proposed diversion of several roads, it is likely to face opposition. Leigh MP Andy Burnham said: “This is a bombshell for residents because the Government has not consulted at all, and I find that unacceptable.
“I do not say ‘no’ to HS2 automatically as I can see it could be very beneficial for the borough, but this first plan will bring massive disruption and treats Lowton as somewhere which can be conveniently carved up as people see fit. There has been no consideration at all for the residents, who will receive all of the hassle and none of the benefits.”
The Government faces considerable opposition to the £33bn project, with 18 Conservative-led councils across the Home Counties and Midlands already planning legal action over the location of the proposed route.
Trains are currently expected to run to Birmingham by 2026, with the lines to the North slated to open in 2033.