Anger as new HS2 proposals suggest bypassing Wigan
Wigan's council leader has expressed dismay at proposals to re-route HS2 so that it bypasses Wigan.
The Government has publshed its Union Connectivity Review this week and it proposes that instead of the high speed section of the route stopping with a spur at Golborne, that it instead it follows the West Coast Mainline (WCML), not stopping in Wigan and heading up to end in Preston.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had said the "writing was on the wall" for the Golborne Link - which supporters say would bring economic prosperity to the area and improve Wigan's overall business prospects - back in February last year.
Under the present plans Wigan would be one of few places across the country that will have a high speed rail station, supporters saying it would help make the borough into a regional transport hub.
Executive Leader of Wigan Council, David Molyneux, said: “Through the Integrated Rail Plan, the Government has said that it wants to prioritise affordability, speed of delivery and widening the benefits of rail investment to towns as well as cities. The current Golborne Link meets all of these objectives and, crucially, it is a scheme that is already on the table.
“While we support the impetus the Union Connectivity Review gives to the establishment of a new strategic transport network across the United Kingdom and its recommendation that decisions should be taken on a multi-modal basis, it is important that the Government’s focus on improving connections within the North of England and of towns like Wigan is not lost in the process.
“Although the Review’s recommendation to change the location of HS2’s link to the West Coast Mainline might shave a few minutes off journey times to Scotland, in doing so it would sever Wigan and its surrounding communities from the step-change in connectivity the Golborne Link would deliver.
“The Union Connectivity Review brings yet more uncertainty to our future. After waiting many months for the delayed Integrated Rail Plan, it would not be acceptable to potentially have to wait for even more work to be carried out so that the Government can properly understand possible alternatives to the Golborne Link; alternatives which may not adequately meet the objectives set out in the Integrated Rail Plan.
“Towns like Wigan must benefit from the Levelling Up opportunities provided by being plugged directly into a rail network which will be the foundations for our region’s economic growth for generations to come: we cannot afford to be by-passed due to decisions being made by this government today. For Wigan, there is no alternative to the Golborne Link. We must not be relegated to a second division future as collateral damage for getting to Scotland more quickly.
“We strongly urge ministers to not to introduce any more delay and uncertainty - commit now to the Golborne Link and do not leave Wigan out on a limb.”
He was backed by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, who said: “At a Greater Manchester level we fully support Wigan Council in wanting to maximise the benefits of HS2 to the borough and wider North West.
“By taking the line north to Preston the economic benefits to the North West of England will be significantly reduced and a major opportunity to improve connectivity in the heart of the North West where most people live will be missed.”
The review states: "The Golborne Link —the current proposed connection between HS2 and the WCML—is expected to deliver quicker journey times and more capacity between England and Scotland and resolve some of the constraints between Crewe and Preston.
"However, the Golborne Link does not resolve all of the identified issues. The suitability of alternative connections between HS2 and the WCML have been considered by the review.
"The emerging evidence suggests that an alternative connection to the WCML, for example at some point south of Preston, could offer more benefits and an opportunity to reduce journey times by two to three minutes more than the Golborne Link.
"However, more work is required to better understand the case for and against such options."
Were Wigan to remain the "gateway" to HS2 in the region, it is estimated that journey times to London would be cut to 80 minutes.
But some people have been opposed to the Golborne spur because of local environmental disruption and there are others who object to the project in its entirety either because of its eco-impact, its huge cost or the belief that the money could be better spent on other transport projects.
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