Step forward for Skelmersdale rail link

Lancashire County Council is forging ahead with plans to connect Skelmersdale town centre to the rail network.

Skem RailCounty Councillor John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, gave the green light for the next step, which will see the county council work with partners including Network Rail and Merseytravel on a more detailed proposal to show how the link could be constructed, and any practical design issues overcome.

County Councillor Fillis said: "Our plans to deliver a railway station for Skelmersdale are on track. Linking Skelmersdale to the rail network will develop the strategic transport position of Skelmersdale within West Lancashire and beyond. Our ambition is for the proposed station in the town centre to provide direct access into Liverpool, with two trains an hour, along with an hourly service into Manchester.

"The rail link is part of a wider proposal outlined in our highways and transport masterplan for a wholesale reconfiguration of Skelmersdale's transport network, and will be fully integrated with the bus network and easily accessible on foot or by cycle."

Fillis said that the initial feasibility study shows that connecting Skelmersdale to the rail network should deliver good value for money.

He said: "When taking into account a dynamic growing economy of business investment, regeneration and housing development, then the return figures just get better."

The county council has already established a £1m fund to begin the work to develop a detailed brief that will comply with rail industry standards. The study is known as a GRIP Stage 3 (Guide to Rail Investment Process) under the rail industry's formal staged process for delivering new projects and could cost between £2.8m and £4m.

Fillis added: "We feel that the best route for funding the rail link and associated improvements would be through a Growth Deal, of the type which has been so successful in other parts of the county. It is estimated that this would be the largest Growth Deal bid Lancashire has put together so far." A railway station in Skelmersdale Town Centre is proposed by Lancashire County Council as one of a number of major developments for the future, including better bus services, cycling and walking links, to improve people's access to jobs, social activities, education, health and wellbeing with the main thrust of promoting economic growth. The Skelmersdale rail link is also recognised by other rail transport documents covering Merseyside.