A Station Back in Skelmersdale

Map showing route of the former railway Skelmersdale branch line that once served a station in Skelmersdale A key campaign aim of Railfuture North West England branch is the construction of a new line and station in Skelmersdale in Lancashire.

Skelmersdale is currently the largest town in North-West England without a railway station. Whilst it has a good road network, the level of car ownership is low and bus services are poor. The nearby stations of Upholland and Rainford on the Kirkby - Wigan line have little or no car parking, no connecting bus services, and no direct service to the closest employment centre of Liverpool. It should therefore be no surprise that youth unemployment in the area is above average. The effect of the lack of public transport is described starkly in this article.

We believe that opening a new rail station in Skelmersdale would provide access to education and jobs, help to improve the local economy, and would be relatively easy to achieve. We have already written to Lancashire County Council to express our support for the plans they have for a station here in the West Lancashire Masterplan page 29.

We have also written to Merseytravel as we think that the plans should include an extension of the electric services from Kirkby and also to the MP for West Lancashire, Rosie Cooper.

On 1st August 2014 Merseytravel published their Long Term Rail Strategy and this includes proposals for a spur to and station in Skelmersdale. The detail of the proposal is on page 25.

On 1st June 2015 Lancashire County Council approved £1m funding to start a more detailed evaluation of how a rail link to Skelmersdale could be constructed, with a station in the town centre. This will be progressed through GRIP stage 3 (Governance for Railway Investment Projects, Option Selection) with Network Rail and Merseytravel.

Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport John Fillis said: “Our plans to deliver a railway station for Skelmersdale are on track. Our ambition is for the proposed station to provide direct access to Liverpool, with two trains an hour, along with an hourly service to Manchester. 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.”

In 2015 Network Rail's estimate for the GRIP3 work was £4 million. The proposed timescale was:
  • Jan 2017: GRIP3 concluded
  • Jan 2019: GRIP4 (Single options selection) complete
  • Apr 2021 - April 2013: GRIP6 (Construction, commissioning)
  • Dec 2023: Train services start.
In April 2016 it was reported that Lancashire County Council will invest £4.7m into the project over the next two years. On 18 September 2017 Merseytravel confirmed that it will be contributing up to £765,000, adding to £4.32m already set aside by Lancashire County Council, to further build the case for both a new station at Headbolt Lane in Knowsley, and for a new railway branch line from Rainford to Skelmersdale town centre. Merseytravel electric services will be extended beyond Kirkby to Skelmersdale, where they will connect with Northern services from Wigan diverted from Kirkby.

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