PLANS for a new railway line and station in Skelmersdale have taken a step forward with the county council set to submit the Strategic Outline Business Case for the proposal to the government.
The proposed transport link would ensure that Skelmersdale becomes better connected to the regional centres of Liverpool, Manchester and Preston, which the council say would open up job, education and training opportunities, as well as new leisure activities.
The county council has said it will encourage business development in the town, supporting both new and existing developments, providing a catalyst for regeneration and future investment, leading to lasting transformational change.
They added the link would also significantly contribute to decarbonisation, local air quality, healthy and active travel agendas.
Options for the new rail link would connect Skelmersdale to the existing Liverpool Central-Kirkby-Wigan Wallgate railway line with estimated costs for the project ranging from £210million to £700m.
Journey times from the town centre station options would be around 35 minutes to Liverpool Central and 18 minutes to Wigan Wallgate.
The submission to government will look for agreement to move to the next stage of the development process.
The SOBC has been developed by Lancashire County Council, working in partnership with organisations including Merseytravel, Network Rail and West Lancashire Borough Council.
The county council has also worked closely with the Department for Transport in relation to developing and finalising the SOBC and has followed their guidance to ensure that all available options have been appropriately appraised.
County Councillor Charlie Edwards, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “This is an important stage of the highly-detailed and lengthy process which we need to go through to bring these major rail improvements for people in the town.
“Improving the public transport network will help to encourage regeneration in the area and make the town a more appealing place to live, work, visit and invest.
“By providing a high-quality sustainable public transport service, it reduces the need for car journeys, which reduces emissions and traffic levels.
“Skelmersdale is a unique part of Lancashire due to its radical design as a New Town in the 1960s. Unfortunately as the town grew, the rail link was never reinstated.
“We will be pushing the case for this and other rail investment across Lancashire in our conversations with Government.”
The previous Skelmersdale railway station closed to passengers in 1956.
The SOBC will be submitted to the Department for Transport who will decide whether to take the project forward to the next developmental stage.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said: “This is an enormous step in the fight for Skelmersdale Railway Station.
“Every resident of Skelmersdale knows how utterly revolutionary this will be for the town. It is absurd that a town with a population of close to 40,000, doesn’t have a train station of its own.
“The Government are already aware of Skelmersdale’s need for a train station; the Prime Minister even named Skelmersdale as one of the towns that should benefit from the Beeching reversal fund!
“I will be doing everything I can, in Parliament and locally, to ensure we receive the funding and DfT approval for this project.
“To start, I have invited the Transport Secretary to join me on a walk around Skelmersdale, so that he can truly appreciate how beneficial this project will be to the area.
“Residents of Skelmersdale understandably feel like they live on an isolated and forgotten island. “Connecting it to the rail network will be an economic explosion, opening up a wealth of social and professional possibilities.
“For far too long, Skelmersdale has been overlooked, if the Government are really committed to their ‘levelling up’ agenda, they will acknowledge this fact and approve this proposal without hesitation!”