An expanded and modernised Preston Railway Station could create a total of 7,850 jobs and generate £324m over the coming decades, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said today.
Network Rail has requested the city and county councils prepare a long-term vision for the station to inform its strategic review of West Coast Main Line capacity north of Crewe.
Lancashire County Council has commissioned consultants to prepare a masterplan for Preston Station as the first stage towards an HS2 Growth Strategy.
HS2, a high-speed railway plan to link London and the north of England, will reach Crewe by 2027 rather than 2033 as originally planned and a connection from HS2 to the West Coast Main Line in the vicinity of Golborne, near Wigan, is on the cards.
This would see the journey time between Preston and London reduced from the current 128 minutes to 77 minutes by 2033.
The LEP also says the train station modernisation will enhance a possible business district - an idea once mooted by Preston Council but later dropped from the latest city centre plan.
The reports says: “It is vital that Preston has direct and frequent access to HS2 and any potential HS3 in fit for purpose surroundings.
“The existing station track layout comprises six operational through platforms and two bay platforms; none of the through platforms will be capable of accommodating HS2 trains.
“Furthermore, the station fabric has seen little investment in recent years, resulting in a poor passenger experience and preventing the station from contributing towards the wider commercial development of the city centre.
“The station must therefore be transformed into a modern, 21st century facility, one that is fully HS2 compatible to maximise the inherent advantages of Preston’s location on the national rail network.”
Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “This report clearly shows how both existing and new funding for transport interventions will help us unlock a significant number of new jobs, new housing and new commercial development in Lancashire.
“It also builds on the fantastic investment the LEP has already helped to secure via initiatives such as the City Deal and the Growth Deal, and further sends a clear signal to both government and our northern neighbours about Lancashire’s ambition, appetite and determination to play a key role in the north’s economic prosperity.”
John Cridland, independent chairman of Transport for the North (TfN), added: “There is much to do to improve transport capacity and links across the north and making this happen requires an ambitious vision at both a pan-northern and local level. We welcome Lancashire’s Transport Prospectus and see it as a clear commitment to our vision.”
Aidan Turner Bishop of the Campaign for Better Transport in Lancashire said rail investment was welcome but there should be more focus on improving rail travel to places like east Lancashire, Liverpool and Yorkshire, and not just on business travel to London.
He said: “The urgent need is to upgrade regular services to connect us across Lancashire. But business passengers are weighted six times more than ordinary people.”