Historic Wigan railway bridge to be demolished and re-built despite protests from locals
A railway bridge in Wigan is due to be demolished and replaced with a new one as part of the electrification of the line between the town and Bolton.
Network Rail is investing £78m into this scheme which would see 13 miles of railway given an overhaul.
Despite objectors raising questions over whether this historic bridge on Ladies Lane, built in the 1840s, should be protected from a heritage point of view and fears over traffic disruption, Wigan Council was required to green light the proposals. This is because under planning law railway companies have the powers to carry out any work that is deemed necessary for “making, maintaining, altering or repairing and using the railway.”
The bridge next to Hindley Railway Station – which will continue to have vehicle and pedestrian access upon completion – will be reconstructed with concrete and incorporate 1.8m-high parapets to meet the required standards for electrification.
Road diversions and bus routes would be implemented during the construction period which is hoped to take place during school holidays, a highways report stated. If this did spill over into term time then Network Rail would be required to fund alternative bus services.
Hindley resident Dave Culshaw recently attempted to get the bridge listed in the hope of thwarting the project, saying that weeks of bridge closures would create traffic havoc for motorists having to take detours of many miles, and also have a devastating impact on Hindley town centre shops.
But the application for listed status was turned down. Mr Culshaw said he wasn’t against the electrication programme but felt Network Rail should lower the track rather than knock down the historic bridge, thus causing less disruption to Hindley.
He added: “The first a small number of residents knew about the proposed development was a notice tied to the lamp-post opposite the station entrance.
"People north of the development will be faced with a five-mile detour through Whelley or Westhoughton to visit the Pennygate Health Centre.
"It will have a huge knock-on effect for the area.
"Some small businesses may very well go to the wall."
A total of 17 structures like this bridge and Chew Bridge in Westhoughton (that was undertaken earlier this year) will need to be overhauled to make way for overhead lines. The major investment will ensure that older diesel trains can be replaced by cleaner and longer electric rolling stock.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The work planned to Ladies Lane bridge is part of the £78m electrification of the railway between Wigan and Bolton which when complete will allow cleaner, greener and longer trains to run between key towns and cities in Greater Manchester.
"Seventeen bridges and structures on the 13-mile route must be modified to give enough clearance for 25,000-volt cables to be installed to power future trains.
“Plans are being finalised for this latest bridge upgrade and we’ll be issuing more information soon on how it could impact passengers and local people.”
It is hoped by Network Rail that by 2025, the electric trains will “provide passengers with greener, more comfortable, and more reliable journeys”.