Cautious welcome for rail plans

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HIGH speed rail station plans has received a cautious welcome from neighbouring borough residents.

Now there has been a pledge that feedback from a consultation meeting will be used to improve the interchange plans for the Lowton site.

MP Andy Burnham MP made good on his pledge to keep residents updated on his discussions with the Government about HS2 when he hosted the public meeting at Lowton Social Club.

Attended by around 200 people, the meeting heard a presentation from Ged Tyrell of Transport for Leigh which is campaigning to bring a rail station to the area.

They are developing a costed and detailed plan to deliver this goal and hope to build support for it from across the North West.

Transport for Leigh believe the proposed HS2 route provides an excellent opportunity for the Leigh area to re-gain a station.

That is because it would link with the existing Liverpool-Manchester line to create a new interchange off the East Lancs and they believe this can be done at the earliest opportunity with the integration with HS2 at a later stage.

One suggestion put forward by residents which has already been adopted by Transport for Leigh is the inclusion of a relief road linking the proposed new station with Winwick Lane, diverting traffic away from the congested Lane Head area.

Mr Burnham promised to build in other ideas raised at the meeting, including the protection of green space in the area around the proposed station.

Whilst HS2 will bring disruption, Mr Tyrrell believes it presents a ‘once in a lifetime’ to obtain a rail presence for the area rather than just having a HS2 rail line running through bringing all the disruption but with no advantage to the local community and business.

The Leigh MP confirmed at the meeting that he had met with the Transport Minister, Simon Burns MP and reported that the Government has an ‘open mind’ about the idea of rail interchange station at Lowton and is prepared to consider a detailed proposal from campaigners.

Government officials have already accepted that the scheme proposed by Transport for Leigh is technically feasible and are open to looking at the deliverability of the project.

Mr Burnham said that he didn’t think the community would “ever get a better opportunity than this” to re-connect the area to the rail network.

He said: “The Government has given us a green light to prepare our case and I urge people to get behind Transport for Leigh and present a united front.

“People will have concerns - and we will do our best to respond to them - but we will be failing our children, grand-children and future generations if we don’t grab this with both hands.”

Mr Burnham will now be arranging meetings with neighbouring local authorities and the Passenger Transport bodies serving Greater Manchester and Merseyside with the aim of building a broad-based campaign in support of the plans.

Ged Tyrrell from Transport for Leigh said: “This represents a once in a lifetime chance for the reinstatement of a rail link. Something will not only provide opportunity for the local community, but the wider area, for us, and, more importantly, future generations to come.”

Neil Alistair Prescott from Transport for Leigh added that although the published route for HS2 had raised “strong opinions both for and against,” the group hoped that, from a local perspective, it could influence the plan so that it works for the borough’s advantage.”

• FURTHER details of the Transport for Leigh proposal can be found on the website www.transportforleigh.org.uk where there is access to an online survey and a Government e-petition.