South Ribble station where trains stop but passengers can't get off could be reopened using axed HS2 cash

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Lancashire’s politicians are lining up with wishlists of the rail schemes that they would like to see funded with the cash that will be saved from the cancellation of the HS2 link to Manchester.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, made the widely expected announcement during his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference.

However, he pledged to spend “every single penny” of the £36bn windfall that will be created by the culling of the high-speed project on “hundreds” of other transport improvements across the country - including in the North of England.

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The so-called “Network North” element of the new funding pot that has been created will be used to support a raft of initiatives identified in a document published on Wednesday setting out the plans in more detail.

Midge Hall station (image: Google)Midge Hall station (image: Google)
Midge Hall station (image: Google)

The blueprint is light on specifics about the railway upgrades that Lancashire might be able look forward to, but the the county is mentioned as a beneficiary of a £2.5 billion fund “to transform local transport” in areas beyond the so-called “city regions”.

South Ribble’s Tory MP Katherine Fletcher already has her eyes on one particular prize - the reopening of Midge Hall station in Leyland, which has been closed for over 60 years. Bizarrely, however, trains do still stop at the disused boarding point.

“It is absolute madness to have what is potentially the only station in the country where trains stop at the platform, but passengers can’t get on and off,” Ms. Fletcher told the Lancashire Post.

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“It’s a piece of single track [at that point], so the driver has to stop to exchange a token at Midge Hall, then they go down the single track and stop again at Rufford to hand the token back.

“I’ve been making the case for Midge Hall to reopen for years and will now continue making the case that this is where [some of] this funding needs to go.

“I will also be [pushing for] removing the buffers at Ormskirk to allow direct trains to Liverpool and reinstating the Burscough Curves to allow direct services between Southport and Preston, without having to change at Wigan.”

That call was echoed by Southport’s Conservative MP – and one-time Preston city councillor – Damien Moore, who said that he had been “leading the campaign to reinstate the Burscough curves, to secure improved regional rail connectivity to catalyse local tourism, trade and travel.Meanwhile, the Labour opposition group leader on Lancashire County Council, Azhar Ali, said that there were now a number of “quick wins” that Lancashire should be able to expect if the government is true to its world about investing across the North.

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“We desperately need investment to reopen the Poulton to Fleetwood link, we need the electrification of the route from Liverpool, via Preston, up to Leeds and we need the Colne to Skipton line reinstating.

“If I wanted to go from Pendle to Newcastle, I'd have to get a car or bus to Skipton, then a train to Leeds and change again for one to Newcastle - it would take probably four hours to get there. I’ve always said we need better connectivity east to west.

“We also want the Metro link extension from Bury to Rawtenstall so we have got better transport links from the east of the county through to Greater Manchester.

"Then there’s Skelmersdale, which doesn’t even have a train station, the government turned it down.

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“So there are lots of things that need to happen that have been on the government’s waiting list for decades and they should be done,” said County Cllr Ali.

The Network North document also floats the idea of “more trams for Blackpool”, but offers no further detail.

The Post understands that Lancashire County Council’s priority transport schemes are the reopening of the Poulton to Fleetwood rail link, which is now proposed to be a combined tram-train scheme, after the government fleshed out how the link was likely to be delivered back in July; improvements to capacity on the South Fylde rail line, via the creation of a passing loop, a project championed by Fylde MP Mark Menzies and which is under active consideration by the government; and a rail connection between Rawtenstall and Greater Manchester.


As part of the Network North plans, Lancashire will share in £2.5bn of funding for transport schemes with 13 other areas described as “rural counties [and] smaller cities and towns”.

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However, just six places across the North – each with devolved powers – will feast on a £4bn pot, created from the displaced HS2 cash.

It has once again raised the question of the extent to which Lancashire is being left behind because it still does not have a devolution deal with the government.

Back in 2021, neighbouring areas like Greater Manchetser and the Liverpool City Region were given access to a £7bn transport improvement fund from the Treasury, but Lancashire was locked out of the largesse.

As the Post revealed in July, the government has now expressed its commitment to concluding a deal with the county, based on a proposal to create a new Lancashire county combined authority to discharge any new devolution arrangements.