THE HS2 rail link will not benefit Leigh despite the town having the “poorest access to rail transport in the country”, says local MP Andy Burnham.

The Shadow Health Secretary claims the multi-billion project will destroy Leigh’s best beauty spots and has told the government it must “go back to the drawing board”.

Mr Burnham has responded to the HS2 Phase 2 Consultation, which has now closed after discussions with residents.

The government is expected to announce how HS2 will proceed by the end of 2014.

Mr Burnham argues that reinstating Leigh’s rail links to Liverpool and Manchester — which were removed in the 1960s — would be of more use to people in the town under the proposal for an HS2 Leigh Interchange.

He also questioned whether a site of environmental heritage — such as the proposed location of the HS2 depot in Leigh’s “Green Heart” — would have been chosen for such a facility in the south of England.

Mr Burnham said: “The natural landscape of the Leigh and Wigan area is slowly recovering after centuries of coal mining and heavy industrialisation.

“What green areas we have are therefore precious to us and need to be respected.

“Locally, there is a strong feeling that a similar decision would not have been taken to site a depot in an area of environmental and heritage importance in the South.”

On the interchange, he added: “It is not fair to Leigh constituents who pay for the rail network through their taxes, but have limited access to it.

“The Leigh Interchange proposal will spread the economic and regeneration potential away from Manchester and towards communities along the Liverpool to Manchester corridor.

“With a connecting link to the Liverpool-Manchester railway line, it will give people in living Merseyside much easier access to HS2 and cut journey times from Merseyside to London.”