PLANS to restore the Burscough Curves have been given a boos.
A new pot of funding recently established by the county council called the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund is being used to support a bid to the Department for Transport to progress the business case for the Burscough Curves by offering to 'match fund' or 'top up' any funding provided by the DFT to get the study underway.
Re-instatement of the rail junction at Burscough would reconnect the Southport – Manchester line with the Preston – Ormskirk – Liverpool lines, opening up two new rail routes for south and west Lancashire, and bringing economic benefits by providing better links between railway stations in Southport and Lancashire.
Rail services are central to regional economic development, growth and post-epidemic recovery plans, and essential to achieving zero carbon.
The added connectivity provided by restoring the Burscough Curves would address a number of transport issues and constraints on existing transport networks. Whilst Ormskirk enjoys a fast, frequent train service to Liverpool, other services and public transport connections across the areas are poor, disjointed and infrequent. Travel by road is not easy and has adverse consequences on health with air quality exceeding safe limits at some points along busy arterial roads. In turn this impacts the competitiveness and economic development of the area.
The Department for Transport is currently inviting MPs, local councils and community groups to bid for funding through a programme called Restoring Your Railways to progress proposals to reinstate disused railway lines, and restore closed stations https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/re-opening-beeching-era-lines-and-stations/re-opening-beeching-era-lines-and-stations.
The DfT will fund 75% of costs, up to £50,000, of successful proposals to help fund transport and economic studies and create a business case. The proposal, agreed in principle, is to match/top-up any funding resulting from a successful bid to Restoring Your Railways from the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund to carry out the business case for restoring the Burscough Curves, demonstrating county council support to the values of the scheme and wider sustainable transport ambitions. If a business case can be proven, further work would then follow to fully detail the feasibility of the proposal, exploring issues such as delivery costs and impact upon existing railway operations such as timetables.
The bid is being sponsored by 4 MPs representing the area, and is being led by the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers' Association (OPSTA), a rail user group that campaigns for improvements to the area's railways.
County Councillor Michael Green, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: "Momentum has been building for many years behind the case for reinstating the short section of rail track at Burscough to reconnect the Southport to Manchester line with the Preston to Ormskirk to Liverpool line.
"Our offer to top up or match DFT funding through the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund could just be the key to finally unlock progress with this scheme by supporting an initial study to prove the business case.
"The benefits to the local economy and environment of reinstating the Burscough Curves appear very clear, due to the opportunity to significantly improve sustainable travel links and access to opportunities for communities where rail connections are currently limited. Funding an initial study is vital to gather the evidence and prove the case to further develop this scheme."