More than £5 million in funding has been secured to develop plans for a railway to Skelmersdale – the second largest town in North West England without a station.
The project – led by Lancashire County Council – is estimated to cost £300 million.
If a strong business case is developed, and appropriate funding sourced, a new station at Headbolt Lane, Knowsley, and a new railway branch line to Skelmersdale town centre could be built within 10 years.
The plan would see Merseyrail services extended from the current terminus at Kirkby station to serve Headbolt Lane, Rainford and Skelmersdale – which would become the new interchange for Merseyrail, and Northern Services to Wigan and Manchester.
Leigh, Greater Manchester, is the largest town in the North West without a railway station.
The next stage in planning will look at developing a train service timetable to inform track design, the impact of a potential rail freight connection to the Knowsley Industrial Park and other surveys to understand land use, geology and land ownership.
Other partners in the Skelmersdale Project include Merseytravel – which is contributing up to £765,000 to the initial project – West Lancashire Borough Council, Merseyrail, Northern Rail and Network Rail. Lancashire County Council is contributing £4.32 million.
Councillor Liam Robinson is the chairman of the Liverpool City Region Transport Committee, which oversees the work of Merseytravel. He said that the scheme would be a ‘significant expense’ but that the committee wanted to better link people to jobs and opportunities.
County Councillor Keith Iddon, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for transport, added, ‘Skelmersdale is a large town and should be connected to the rail network.
‘The initial feasibility study which has already been done as part of the GRIP process shows this should deliver good value for money.
‘This further study will establish some of the detail that we need to make a full business case for the significant funding that will be needed to deliver this scheme, and marks another important milestone in its development.’