Politicians and business leaders are celebrating the announcement of the HS2 route which will make Wigan a gateway to the north.
A route bringing the super-fast line through Lowton to meet the existing West Coast Main Line in the borough was approved by transport secretary Chris Grayling yesterday.
I think this is absolutely fantastic. The HS2 brochure really promotes Wigan and that is what we want to see.Coun David Molyneux
The Government also revealed a controversial rolling stock maintenance depot previously slated for building on Lowton Common has now been moved to Crewe following a local outcry.
The announcement means journeys from Wigan to Birmingham could be slashed to just 35 minutes and trips to the capital could take one hour and 23 minutes on the trains travelling at up to 200mph.
HS2 has been dogged by criticism, with sceptics claiming the line is unnecessary, too expensive and will only increase the movement of people and business towards London away from the region.
However, Wigan Council deputy leader Coun David Molyneux and business leaders in the borough and across Greater Manchester today said the route announcement was excellent news and the area would see significant benefits.
Coun Molyneux said: “I think this is absolutely fantastic. The HS2 brochure really promotes Wigan and that is what we want to see.
“It is a big boost for Wigan. When you think about the Northern Powerhouse and what we are being asked to deliver then connectivity is vital.
“I have always said that we are in the right place because we’ve got the M6 and we’re on the West Coast Mainline slap bang between London and Glasgow.
“Infrastructure schemes will always have critics because of the cost and this is no different, but we’ve got to start looking at what we can deliver for the future.
“There will be a lot of jobs on offer and we’ve got to make the most of the skills we’ve got in Wigan and ensure local people are employed.
“I would like to see it start as soon as possible because I think we’ve got to grab this opportunity with both hands. We have always been politically supportive of HS2 and will continue to do so, because the benefits will outweight whatever other people may say about it.”
Coun Molyneux also called for the trans-Pennine HS3 route to receive Government approval to improve east-west connections from Wigan.
The business community has also given a warm welcome to the announcement of the HS2 extension, which could be ready by 2032.
Chris Fletcher, marketing and Policy director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “The announcement today for HS2 marks another significant step forward in what is the UK’s largest and one of its most-needed infrastructure projects.
“The need to bust congestion of all forms on the UK’s transport network is urgent.
“We also fully back the plans for a new East-West rail link across the north of England connecting the major economic areas.
“We see this as Crossrail North and this will deliver the transport network that is required to fully unlock economic growth, which will ultimately benefit the whole UK.”
The local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses said it hoped there would be a major role for small firms in the HS2 construction work and urged the Government to also prioritise road network improvements.