Five Years On – Skelmersdale, Rawtenstall and Fleetwood

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June 2014 marks five years since the publication of the Connecting Communities report into potential opportunities to expand the rail network. This blog will be publishing a set of posts during June to review the progress that has been made to date. This is the seventh post in the “Five Years On” series.

This post reviews the progress of three of the railway schemes in the North West of England.

Skelmersdale

A new branch is proposed to connect Skelmersdale with the National Rail network. There have been a number of proposals raised but all involve extending the Merseyrail Electrics Network to a location at or near Skelmersdale. ATOC proposed a branch off the Ormskirk line to a site to the North West of town.

ATOC advised that expenditure would be £31m and the BCR would be 1.1 (2.73 with capital expenditure).

A feasibility study was approved and funded in December 2012, by Merseytravel and Lancashire County Council. Merseytravel advised that this work is still ongoing. A substantial issue has been the location of Skelmersdale which sits close to the border between Merseyside and Lancashire. Discussions have been undertaken to agree the scope of the report and it should be published during Summer 2014.

Rawtenstall

This was the second proposal to use a heritage railway (in this case, the East Lancashire Railway) to connect a settlement to the rail network. The plan was to upgrade run a service from Manchester Victoria to Rawtenstall via Heywood, with permission from the East Lancashire Railway to run trains over its line. With indicative capital expenditure of £50m, the BCR was expected to be 1.8.

In July 2010, a report produced for Transport for Greater Manchester indicated that restoring a commuter service would require subsidy and favoured developing existing bus services.

The local MP, Jake Berry has supported the restoration of services on this line and the government planned to hold talks to restore services in March 2012. During Autumn 2013, Lancashire County Council undertook a consultation into transport through the draft East Lancashire Highway’s and Transport Masterplan. The results were published in February 2014, with the following comments.

There was a significant response calling for the East Lancashire Railway to be utilised as a commuter link and incorporated into the proposals within the draft East Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan. We have therefore moved consideration of a potential commuter link from the rail connectivity study to the M66 corridor gateway study to ensure that the corridor is treated holistically and that a long term solution to congestion in the corridor is found.

The results of the updated A56/M66 Haslingden/Rawtenstall to Manchester Gateway Study is currently awaited.

Fleetwood

Lying north of Blackpool on a branch from Poulton, the ATOC Connecting Communities proposed restoring the 5.5 mile branch line and installing railway stations at Fleetwood and Thornton. ATOC advised that the railway line could be restored for £14m, with a BCR of 1.8.

Whilst the case for reopening the line was described as compelling by a draft report into Rail Improvement Schemes by Lancashire County Council.

The Poulton and Wyre Railway Society are currently restoring parts of the line in order to run a heritage operation on the route.

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