RAIL campaigners have welcomed a feasibility study looking at linking Leigh back to the North West train network.
A report produced for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) by consultants Halcrow analysed demand, potential passenger numbers, projected use and potential pricing of a new station in Leigh.
The study also looked at how a new station, which campaigners have suggested should be built in the Pennington area of town, and spur line would fit in with the ongoing electrification of the West Coast Mainline, and assessed the project’s costs versus the potential benefits.
Focus group Transport for Leigh, who are the driving force between returning the railway to the town, welcomed the report and called it “a stepping stone”, but remained disappointed the wider benefits of a rail link were not taken into consideration by Halcrow.
Neil Prescott, from Transport for Leigh, said: “You’ve got to start somewhere, and the fact that in an age of austerity, £30,000 was spent on the report is a positive sign. They wouldn’t waste that sort of money if they didn’t think it was viable.
“We are disappointed the scope of the report wasn’t wider, though. We absolutely feel it’s not just a case of passenger numbers or future ticket prices which shows the amount of revenue that would be generated.
“The whole point of the railway is the social regeneration it would bring to Leigh. We don’t want a station for the sake of it, and we don’t want a park and ride that’s not within the centre of Leigh.
“We want to bring more people into Leigh, because local businesses are telling us they can’t grow without getting more people in.
“We want to see a two-way flow of people, and we think that is only provided by a railway station in the locality.”
Transport for Leigh’s next step will be to arrange further meetings with TfGM officials and Leigh MP Andy Burnham to keep the railway on the political agenda.
The group will also hold a series of public meetings, with dates yet to be decided, and encourage as many people as possible to come along and make their voices heard.
Mr Prescott said: “We really want to get across the idea that we have constructive engagement now with TfGM and Network Rail.
“It’s not a pipe dream, this is something which can happen, but we need everyone to get in touch with their local councillors and their MP and express their feelings on the matter.”