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    Henry James

    PLANS for Skelmersdale to get its own railway station took another tentative step forward this week when the efforts of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Lancashire County Council to investigate the possibility of extending the Merseyrail connection through to the town were highlighted in a new rail strategy.

    The Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy is set to be discussed at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority tomorrow (Thursday, January 16).

    The aim of the strategy is “to provide a clear, focused, evidence-based approach to improvements on the rail network both within the Liverpool City Region but also the links into the region.” 

    It states: “The LCR has worked with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail on the potential extension of the Merseyrail line through to Skelmersdale. 

    “A GRIP 3 study will be completed in 2020. Transforming Cities Funding has been made available to extend the Merseyrail services through to a new station at Headbolt Lane.

    “GRIP 4 work is expected to commence early in 2020 on the Headbolt Lane option.”

    GRIP stands for Governance For Railway Investment Projects and is a control process set up by Network Rail to deliver projects on the operational railway.

    Skelmersdale East County Councillor John Fillis said: “This is a positive announcement for Skelmersdale and the whole of West Lancashire.

    “It also demonstrates that Skelmersdale will become a part of the economic jigsaw for the whole of the North West.

    “The people of Skelmersdale have been very patient on this subject. The MP, Lancashire County Council and the borough council have all worked together on this plan. It has had support from all sides, regardless of their political make-up.

    “What we will see as we get closer, is more and more investment into the town. The new network will not only take people out of the town, it will also bring people in as well.

    “The new trains that Merseyrail are ordering will be dual powered, and will be able to be operated through the third rail and the electric overhead cable. The trains will be able to go beyond their current boundaries into the general network. They run on the third rail at the moment. This will be part of Skelmersdale becoming part of the Merseyrail network.

    “The network will be linked to Manchester and Liverpool, which will mean that people will be able to travel to those destinations in about 35 minutes.

    “The trains are electric, so they are more environmentally-friendly than cars.

    “GRIP 3 is looking at the technical and financial viability of the scheme. Once it has passed this it will be passed to Transport For The North.”

    West Lancs MP Rosie Cooper said: “I have campaigned hard for many years for a railway station in the heart of Skelmersdale which will open up a world of economic and social opportunities for the town and its residents.

    “I am pleased that Liverpool City Region and Merseytravel are including increased footfall levels at Liverpool Central based on the addition of Skelmersdale railway station to the network which acknowledges and adds confidence to the Prime Minister’s promise that Skelmersdale railway station will be built.

    “They have also identified Skelmersdale railway station as one of their major projects and are continuing to work with other partners including Lancashire County Council and Network Rail on the GRIP stages and the Strategic Outline Business Case during 2020 to make it a reality.”

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