OUT-of-touch Government ministers have been blasted for not knowing which county Leigh is in.
The town’s MP Andy Burnham launched a broadside after a letter from the Department for Transport stated that building a new railway line would be a matter for Lancashire County Council.
Now traditionalists may insist that Leigh is historically still in Lancashire, but of course politically and administratively it has been part of Greater Manchester since 1974.
The response, signed by Minister for State Simon Burns was issued after Mr Burnham inquired on behalf of a constituent whether any of the money from the Government’s High Level Output Specification (HLOS) fund for rail improvements could be directed towards re-opening Leigh’s railway line or building a new station in the town.
In addition to the factual gaffe of not realising Leigh transport issues come under Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), Mr Burns’s reply also dealt a severe blow to the long-running aspiration to re-connect Leigh to the national railway network, stating that the Government’s priority concerning rail travel was to improve the existing facilities by reducing overcrowding, cutting journey times and improving efficiency.
Mr Burnham said he was angered both by the obvious inaccuracy in Mr Burns’s letter and also by the contents, saying Westminster could not simply dismiss public transport issues as a purely local problem.
Mr Burnham said: “For a Government department to be sending that letter out is pretty disgraceful. This just shows what we are up against, as the Department for Transport and a Tory minister have no idea where Leigh is on the map, but it is shocking nonetheless to see it in black and white.
“The money is all about improving things for existing customers, not opening up the network to other people, which is unfair to places like Leigh. Public money should be going to those areas not adequately served.
“The Government cannot just wash its hands of this as it was central government which closed our railway line. Congestion in the area, and particularly on the East Lancs road, is getting worse with every year that passes.
“It seems the Department for Transport has forgotten about Leigh, but I am going to be a thorn in their side until they accept the town’s transport and railway needs.”