New railway station in Golborne will be the first built in Greater Manchester in 25 years
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Golborne station is no “pie in the sky” idea according to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who is waiting on sign-off from Government so regenerating his home town as a commuter hub can become a reality.
Both Mr Burnham and Leigh’s MP James Grundy – despite being on opposite sides of the political track – have the same direction in mind for the station, which is to reconnect it to Manchester.
Golborne had a station until 1967 and with no direct bus, train or tram services to Manchester, a station could bring big regeneration benefits.
Despite the arrival of Leigh’s guided busway in 2016, the Golborne end of the Leigh constituency is still “majorly underserved” for connectivity, according to Mr Burnham.
In 2021, £16m was approved by Greater Manchester Combined Authority for a railway station in Golborne and a further £1m was granted to develop the project.
“Golborne, in the end, emerged as the most viable train station in all of Greater Manchester,” Mr Burnham said. “There was a station there that was closed and you can still see the platforms, not that they can be used, and basic structure around it.
“Golborne has a rock solid case for a station. It is now becoming quite clear.
“It has been sent to the Government for sign off. I prioritised it as mayor because of the very poor transport connectivity in that area – and if Metrolink isn’t coming any time soon to the Wigan borough, then it has to be the case to improve rail connectivity.
“This is not favouritism as it is majorly underserved and I declare the fact I do live around there, but TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester) told me early on that Golborne is the station that has the strongest justification.
“We’re confident that we can return a service here and actually it could be one of the first Bee Network (integrated local transport) services. That would be one of the few stations that would effectively be entirely in our boundaries.”
Mr Grundy said: “There are some engineering changes that need to be done so it can be where everyone wants it to be, which is the site of the old Golborne station.
“I am firmly convinced that it is going to get over the line. Hoping to get approval by the Government near the end of the year and construction in 2024 with completion in 2025.
“So hopefully in a couple of years from now you’ll be able to jump on a train at Golborne station, like I will, and go all the way down to London.”
Is there scope for Golborne Station?
The Mayor and Leigh MP both said there was positive feedback regarding the idea at a recent public meeting.
They admitted Golborne would not be very accessible for residents in central Leigh, given bus services between the towns are not as regular as in the past, but the Bee Network taking control of services in Wigan from September means they can arrange shuttle buses to the station, Mr Burnham claims.
He continued: “The rail industry believes it would be heavily used straight away. So there is a strong business case for it.
“Issues for residents in Golborne include parking and flow of traffic but it is an opportunity to enhance Golborne as a centre. I’ve seen what this (transport infrastructure investment) has done for Newton and I see Golborne as the same.
“With clever town centre adjustments Golborne could go the same way as Newton. This is such a wise investment in so many ways.
“Where transport facilities go in, areas see immediate regeneration benefits. So Golborne would get a pretty big lift from this.”
Next stop Kenyon Junction?
Mr Grundy hopes this could open up getting another station to serve Leigh at Kenyon Junction.
The station, off Kenyon Lane near Culcheth, was closed in 1963 but there are new hopes it could return.
Mr Grundy believes the Atherleigh bypass – which stretches from Atherton to Leigh Sports Village – needs to be taken to the M6, before a new station opens.
This road is “key”, according to the Leigh MP, who wants to put a bid in for road infrastructure in 2024.
“Golborne station is a template for what we want to do at Kenyon Junction,” Mr Grundy said. “The reason that it would still be needed is because Golborne would be on the edge of the Leigh constituency.
“One of the biggest problems we are in the process of resolving was there wasn’t stopping capacity on the line so you couldn’t actually get trains to stop there. It was about addressing the Castlefield Corridor’s signalling problems.
“The government put in £10m to address those issues. Now that creates a stopping opportunity.
“Kenyon Junction is actually down a windy Kenyon Lane which is very congested and this would drag you through Lane Head which is a very busy junction. No-one is against this and everyone supports it because even in Lowton, at the bottom end, people there are Liverpool/Manchester commuters and they want easy access.
“The advantage is that Kenyon Junction has massive amounts of space for parking there (unlike Atherton and Golborne).”
Mr Burnham said: “I tried, as the MP for Leigh, to look at the next best options and that was reopening Kenyon Junction station, and that was a scheme proposed by Wigan Council in the early 2000s. It was opposed by local Conservatives and Warrington councillors and it fell because of that.
“People have spoken about (Kenyon Junction) being the best place for a station but it is in Warrington. It is close to Newton station but if you wanted to get a station as close to Leigh as possible what you would do is get Kenyon Junction, due south of Leigh and you’d have a continuation of the Atherleigh Way.”