LONG-AWAITED plans to build a train station in Skelmersdale today moved a step closer, after a project to explore the viability of a rail link was announced.
Network Rail is to be asked to undertake a study into the costs of providing a rail link “into or close to” the town centre.
The proposals put forward by transport authority Merseytravel follows a campaign led by the Advertiser to return rail services to Skem – the second- biggest town in the North West without a station (the first is Leigh, Greater Manchester).
A Merseytravel report states that Network Rail – the body responsible for the country’s rail network – should look at the “detailed costs” needed to implement a rail link.
The report concluded that extending rail services to Skem could “improve the viability of the Merseyrail network”.
The author writes: “The extension to Skelmersdale through Kirkby would make best use of available capacity on the Merseyrail network as Kirkby trains currently carry fewer passengers than other Northern Line services due to the short distance between Kirkby and Liverpool relative to other branches.”
The “business case” will cost around £150k to complete, with £100k put forward by Lancashire County Council and Merseytravel stumping up the rest.
Merseytravel chairman Cllr Liam Robinson told the Advertiser: “We want to work very closely with our colleagues at Lancashire County Council and West Lancs council to see what could be possible.
“One of the things we are very conscious of are the constraints on public spending. If we want to get money for this, there has got to be a compelling case. We want to do this business case to fully understand the viability and cost- effectiveness.”
The expansion of the line through Kirkby could end at one of the four options proposed by Merseytravel – a rail link into the town centre, just south of the M58, to White Moss or to a new park-and-ride station between Rainford and Up Holland.
Asked if there was a preferred options, Cllr Robinson said: “That is what the business case will be all about – to see which would be most cost- effective.”
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle backed the Advertiser’s campaign for a railway station in Skelmersdale during a visit to the town in October.
The Labour MP called for all transport agencies, councils and interested parties to work together in a partnership approach.