Campaigners vow to fight on after Burscough Curves plan is not successful in bid for government funding

Campaigners vow to fight on after Burscough Curves plan is not successful in bid for government funding

by Henry James (November 2021)

CAMPAIGNERS behind proposals to reopen the Burscough Curves have pledged not to give up the fight after their scheme was not included among the winners of the government’s Restoring Your Railway funding programme.

In March the Champion reported how Lancashire County Council, along with MPs Damien Moore and Rosie Cooper, was supporting a bid to the Department for Transport to push the business case for the Burscough Curves.

The scheme was led by the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers' Association (OPSTA), a rail user group that campaigns for improvements to the area's railways.

If the Burscough Curves were reintroduced it would reconnect the Southport – Manchester line with the Preston – Ormskirk – Liverpool lines. This would open up two new rail routes for south and west Lancashire, and campaigners believe the better links between railway stations in Southport and Lancashire would provide economic benefits. The Curves were closed after the infamous Beeching cuts, which took place in the 1960s.

As part of the Restoring Your Railway programme 13 projects have been awarded up to £50,000 each to progress their plans to reinstate stations and restore lines. Projects awarded funding include: restoring the Don Valley Line between Sheffield and Stocksbridge in Yorkshire to regular passenger services; and reconnecting the Staffordshire town of Leek to the rail network with the Stoke-Leek line.

Following the announcement that the Burscough Curves bid had not been successful, the chair of OPSTA Alan Fantom said: “OPSTA has provided full comments to the sponsoring MPs and Lancashire County Council on the evaluation report from the Department for Transport (DfT).

“When the opening statement of the evaluation feedback reads, ‘The proposal makes a strong case for the intervention’ for social and economic reasons and ‘a strong transport case with the area suffering from poor connectivity, congestion and air quality issues’ it is very disappointing and hard to understand why the scheme is deemed unsuitable for the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund.

“If the DfT had simply said our submission had not made the cut of 13 approved schemes then we would have to accept the decision but the marked inconsistencies with the evaluation critique of our initial bid in an earlier round of funding applications is deeply concerning as it contains a number of unfounded comments that seem quite subjective.

“For example the feedback states the projected journey times by rail ‘seem optimistic’ when they compare with the existing service schedules between Southport and Burscough, and Burscough and Preston thus questioning our modelling of passenger take-up.

“It also queries the backing of the Liverpool City Region when it has been stated by the Combined Authority (Merseytravel) and reinstatement of the south curve is in their long term rail strategy.

“It is worth noting that this bid simply sought £50k to support further feasibility work and preparation of a formal business case. With the majority of funding for this next stage committed to by Lancashire County Council, the greater significance is the lack of backing from central government and DfT.

“Southport and West Lancs has now suffered a second major blow on rail transport following DfT’s recent announcement it would terminate our Manchester Piccadilly service at Oxford Road in just over a year’s time. When we hear of major transport investment in the northwest how is it that our region is being left behind?

“On both issues there are potential options for better outcomes if there is a will and OPSTA will continue to work with our MPs and local authorities to see what can be done.”

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper added: “I am really disappointed by the Department for Transport’s decision and don’t agree with their reasoning or this outcome. The proposal made a very persuasive case that the reinstatement of Burscough Curves would have huge benefits, not just for West Lancashire, but Southport, Preston and the surrounding areas.

“I will continue to work with the neighbouring MPs to make further representations to the Ministers. We are certainly not giving up!”



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