Plans to slash the number of train services in Wigan Borough have been labelled ‘catastrophic’ by the Leader of Wigan Council.
The plans have been developed by a taskforce, which includes the Department for Transport, and are designed to improve service reliability following years of under investment in rail infrastructure. However, the Leader of Wigan Council, Councillor David Molyneux argues all three options would have significant consequences for Wigan Borough.
If implemented, 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.
Councillor Molyneux, who also has responsibility for economy and skills, has hit out at the proposals, commenting: “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.”
In January, proposals to build a new railway station in Golborne to the tune of £15m were approved by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. However, Councillor Molyneux fears the scheme could now be in jeopardy.
“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.”
The leader has written to all the borough’s MPs urging them to speak out against the proposals and to explore alternative options. Lisa Nandy MP has already voiced her concerns on the matter, supporting this view.
A consultation about the plans commenced on Friday 15 January 2021 and will close on Wednesday 10 March 2021. If plans are approved in Spring 2021, 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.