SHADOW transport secretary Maria Eagle backed the Advertiser’s campaign for a railway station in Skelmersdale during a visit to the town.
The Labour MP – a minister for transport in the previous government – also called for all transport agencies, councils and interested parties to work together in a partnership approach on the scheme to give it the best chance of coming to fruition.
It comes weeks after Merseytravel chairman Cllr Liam Robinson told the Advertiser he had asked officers to look again at the work that has been done on developing the Kirkby – Wigan line, re-do the business case work, and vowed to “continue to work with Rosie and other politicians to help push Skelmersdale up the regional rail agenda”.
Ms Eagle discussed the rail issues in the town after being given a tour of West Lancs transport facilities by MP Rosie Cooper. She also looked at a potential site for the new rail link in Skem suggested by Ms Cooper.
Speaking to the Advertiser in the Concourse last Friday, she said: “It does seem surprising that there isn’t a rail link. It’s quite a big town with lots of potential – if people could get in and out. With a new town centre on the way and a new college it seems to me a properly placed rail station could have huge regenerative effect for Skelmersdale and West Lancashire. Connectivity can drive jobs and growth and the more connected you are the better. You need to be able to get where jobs are. It’s hard for young people at the moment. Otherwise people will move away and that doesn’t help the town.”
Underlining why it was important for the various agencies to put on a united front on plans for a Skem rail link, she said: “If civil servants are looking for schemes and go to local agencies and everyone is saying the same thing, they will focus on what’s being said.”
Ms Eagle said she is looking at devolving responsibility for decisions on local rail and road schemes to transport authorities as part of Labour’s transport policy review, adding she thought schemes like the Skem rail link were “much more likely to be done with that kind of arrangement”.
Speaking after the visit, Ms Cooper thanked Ms Eagle for her visit and reiterated her desire to ensure “key organisations and people who could be involved in the decision-making process, locally, regionally and nationally, are aware of the scheme”. She added that her first priority is to ensure the people of Skelmersdale have a chance to show their desire for a railway station by signing her petition, which has already collected thousands of names.