Borough’s transport boost?

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THE borough could get a massive transport and jobs boost after scathing report blasted a neighbouring town’s current transport system.

The Lancashire Transport Prospectus gave a damning verdict on Skelmersdale’s public transport and welcomed a masterplan to completely transform the bus and train links.

The report, published by Lancashire County Council, says Skelmersdale has “a road network that is not fit for purpose, inadequate public transport provision, lack of provision for pedestrians and cyclists and an inhospitable public realm”.

To improve this grim state of affairs, the report supports a 2014 masterplan adopted by Lancashire County Council calling for a “wholesale reconfiguration” of public transport over the next decade.

The most headline-grabbing proposal is for a new railway station in the town centre with a spur line coming off the existing route between Wigan Wallgate and Kirkby.

However, the exact location of the new station or the route the track it will take are yet to be decided.

It is also hoped the station, which would also function as a parkway hub for the West Lancashire area and be integrated with the town’s bus services, will help regenerate the entire town centre.

The scheme includes access on foot or by bicycle and also includes car parking.

Surveys have shown a heavy rail link into Skelmersdale town centre is feasible and the project could deliver value for money.

The prospectus said: “This is a transformational proposal and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape Skelmersdale through a single programme of works spread over a number of years to ensure the town has a sustainable, integrated transport network that will allow it to grow and prosper in the future.”

The proposals for the new station were originally contained in the West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan adopted by Lancashire County Council in October 2014 and also featured in a strategic plan sent to the government by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

The county council and its partners, including West Lancashire Borough Council, hope the Skelmersdale rail link could be built during the next national investment period in the railway industry between 2019 and 2024.

A West Lancashire Borough Council spokesman said: “The council has promoted the idea of a new rail link into and railway station for Skelmersdale for many years and highlighted the importance of the project in its adopted local plan.

“The council is currently working in partnership with Lancashire County Council, Merseytravel, Network Rail and other partners to explore plans for this rail link which will connect Skelmersdale into the wider rail network and directly into Manchester and Liverpool city centres.

“The Council therefore welcomes the inclusion of the proposal in the Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus.”

Discussions with the Department for Transport suggest it would most likely need financing through the Local Growth Fund.

Further studies will decide on a single option for the Skelmersdale rail project and attempt to secure stakeholder approval. The town has not had a railway station since 1956 and is now the second biggest town in the North West after Leigh which is not connected to the rail network.

The transport prospectus also encourages further investment in Skelmersdale as the town is ideally placed to feel the benefits of work to improve Liverpool’s port.