Bid to directly connect Preston to Southport by train

A long-running campaign to reconnect a stretch of railway that would allow direct train travel between Preston and Southport could be set for a funding boost.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 1:37 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 8:31 pm

A proposal to reinstate what are known as the Burscough Curves in West Lancashire is set to be the subject of a bid to the government’s Restoring Your Railways Fund.

If successful, it will see the Department for Transport (DfT) provide up to 75 percent of the costs of a £50,000 study to create a business case that would make the argument for the 1.4-mile stretch of track to be brought back into use.

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Map showing train services between Preston and West Lancashire

Lancashire County Council has now said that it will match-fund any cash provided by the government for that assessment work.

The curves were discontinued for passenger service use in 1969/70, severing the link between the Southport to Manchester railway line and the track running between Preston and Ormskirk. Campaigners have long argued that reinstating the route would improve poor rail connectivity in the area.

Train travel between Preston and Southport currently takes just over an hour for passengers who opt to change at Burscough Junction station and make the quarter-of-an-hour walk to Burscough Bridge, where they can join a service through to Southport.

Alternatively, they can choose to travel to Wigan North Western and take the much shorter one-minute walk across the road to pick up a Southport-bound train from Wigan Wallgate station. However, the overall journey time for that option can be up to around one hour 15 minutes.

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning Michael Green said: “Momentum has been building for many years behind the case for reinstating the short section of rail track at Burscough to reconnect the Southport to Manchester line with the Preston to Ormskirk to Liverpool line.

“Our offer to top up or match DfT funding through the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund could just be the key to finally unlock progress with this scheme by supporting an initial study to prove the business case.

“The benefits to the local economy and environment of reinstating the Burscough Curves appear very clear, due to the opportunity to significantly improve sustainable travel links and access to opportunities for communities where rail connections are currently limited. Funding an initial study is vital to gather the evidence and prove the case to further develop this scheme.”

Four of the area’s MPs are backing the bid to the government.

The recovery and growth fund is a £12.8m pot established by the county council last year to help kickstart the local economy as it recovers from the pandemic.