£37 million investment to electrify Bolton - Wigan train line
THE railway line between Bolton and Wigan will receive £37 million of investment to electrify the line.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced today that the line from Bolton to Wigan North Western — which goes through Westhoughton, Hindley and Ince — will be upgraded as part of a national push for rail electrification.
A DfT spokesman said the government was investing record amounts to modernise the network across England and help areas like Bolton.
He said: “The £37 million electrification of the Bolton to Wigan line will provide significant benefits to passengers and local businesses.
“It will allow the introduction of faster and more reliable electric trains throughout the region with more peak capacity.
“With the majority of the work being carried out at night and at the weekend, Network Rail has assured us that disruption will be kept to a minimum.”
Work is scheduled to be completed by 2017, and is part of wider plans to enable the conversion of the Wigan to Victoria and Manchester Airport services and is in addition to the electrification of the Manchester to Preston line.
Commuters have already suffered delays and cancellations as a result of preparatory work for the upgrade of that line.
Cllr David Chadwick, Bolton Council’s cabinet member for highway and transport, said: “It is fantastic news — it’s sensible that it is done at the same time as the Manchester to Preston line.
“We have been waiting for this for donkey’s years and that corridor is becoming busier by the year as Westhoughton is becoming very popular for people commuting to Bolton, Manchester and Wigan.
“It’s difficult to say what the impact on commuters will be while the work is being carried on. I’m not an engineer, and as the Manchester to Preston line is being electrified some of the bridges are a major structural headache.”
He also praised electric trains for being more efficient, faster, with a lower carbon footprint, less maintenance issues and are faster when leaving the station.
Cllr Chadwick added: “By doing it between Wigan North Western and Bolton, it gives rail companies the opportunity to re-route electrical trains and be more flexible if there’s problems north of Lostock — for example if a train de-rails around Chorley.”
And rail campaigner, Preva Crossley, who is the development officer of Hindley station and a committee member on the Friends of Westhoughton Train Station, is delighted with the plans.
He said: “It’s great news, especially for Hindley and Westhoughton stations — so long as they keep the level of services that they have already.
“The prospect of disruption to the train services does concern me, because we haven’t been consulted on that.
“But hopefully it will turn out okay — I’m looking forward to it being completed.”
But Bolton’s MPs have reacted more cautiously, arguing that the needs of commuters must be taken into account while electrification is undertaken.
MP David Crausby, who represents Bolton North East, said while electrifying the lines was a positive step forward, he feared the work would mean more chaos for Bolton commuters.
He called on the government to release more carriages while work is being carried on to ease some of the congestion that is being anticipated.
He said: “I do welcome the modernisation of the railways, but Bolton commuters have got to be compensated in some way.
“I have written to the Transport Minister asking for assurance that Bolton will receive more diesel trains to tackle overcrowding.
“It’s vitally important that the long-suffering Bolton commuters should be compensated with more carriages. It’s becoming unbearable.”
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, agreed that while she supports electrification, rail bosses need to make sure that commuters are protected while the work is being carried out.
She said: “It’s great Bolton has received this investment, but the railway companies should run a better services.
“We’re seen stories in The Bolton News where commuters have been squashed like sardines while travelling on the trains, and I’ve encountered many problems myself.
“We’re being attacked from all sides on this issue — and we need better service while the work is ongoing.
“The rail companies could put on more carriages or extra services during peak hours, but the easy option is not to spend any extra money.”
Bolton West MP Julie Hilling added: “This is good news and thanks particularly to David Chadwick for the battling he’s done for this extra electrification “However, we do have to keep fighting to see that we get adequate rolling stock and that while this work is going on the services, the support that our commuters desperately need is in place.”
Transport for Greater Manchester also welcomed the news.
Cllr Andrew Fender, chairman of the TfGM committee, said: “This is more good news for rail passengers which, in the long-term, will provide greater capacity and swifter journeys on modern electric trains along what is already a very popular and well used route.”
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