MP: HS2 a bad deal without interchange

LEIGH MP Andy Burnham has issued an ultimatum to the Government, saying he may not support a flagship rail scheme unless a new interchange is built.

He warned ministers they would not be able to count on his support for the High Speed Two (HS2) rail network unless the town is connected to the new services through a station planned for a site near Lowton.

Mr Burnham also expressed serious concerns about a proposed engineering and maintenance depot at Lowton Common, saying residents should be given the chance to choose between alternative proposals.

Mr Burnham is also planning a series of public meetings to hear residents’ views on the controversial HS2 scheme next month, and has promised all the opinions expressed will be included in his final report to fellow MPs about the transport scheme.

He said: “Leigh taxpayers have paid into the railway network for the past 50 years without getting any real benefit. It’s time for that to change.

“I can see the benefit to the North West but without a station I would find it very hard to justify to my constituents.

“I feel strongly the Government has an obligation to open up the railway network and make it accessible as this area is very poorly served.”

Mr Burnham says he is concerned that, amid the increasingly bitter division between HS2’s biggest supporters and its dyed-in-the-wool critics, the more nuanced opinions of those who will have to live near the planned railway may not be heard.

He said: “I’m concerned individual opinions can get lost in the big picture so this is not about pushing for or against the plan.

“Some people who can see the overall case for it might have worries about the precise way it’s been put forward in our area, or those who may be sceptical will make the best of it if it is built. It’s those opinions I want to capture.

“This is the final chance for people to have their say.”

The HS2 consultation evenings will be held on January 3 at Golborne Community Bowling Club and January 9 at Lowton Social Club. Both events start at 7.30pm.