A KEY rail electrification plan for Bolton is still going ahead - amid dismay over the 'scaling back' of the HS2 and trans-Pennine lines.

Government officials say they have saved £18bn by rejecting a new high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds.

Instead they will press ahead with a hybrid scheme, offering a new line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden, in West Yorkshire, and upgrades along the Pennines route.

But the £78m Wigan-Bolton-Manchester electrification initiative, announced in September, remains untouched in the latest draft of Whitehall's integrated rail plan.

Under that scheme the tracks between Wigan North Western station and Lostock Junction should be upgraded by 2024-2025.

Thirteen miles of track will be electrified and platforms lengthened along the stretch, which includes Westhoughton station.

Elsewhere there has been disappointment over the stunted roll-out of rail improvements for the north.

Sir Roger Marsh, chair of the NP11 group of Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships, said: "Naturally I am disappointed our communities will not now benefit from the once-in-a-generation opportunity that Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 in full represented.

"Historic underinvestment in transport has held back the North’s potential for decades, costing UK plc hundreds of billions of pounds of lost economic output while levelling down living standards.

“While the Integrated Rail Plan does confirm some welcome investment in several parts of the North, this will not deliver the transformational boost to rail capacity and connectivity that these two major schemes offered.

"It is true the North needs to see transport investment now, not just in 20 years’ time, however our position has always been clear that to truly level up the North and deliver the economic growth we can and want to achieve, we need the full package of local, regional and pan-northern investment that successive governments have promised.

“We will continue to work with northern leaders, MPs and businesses to make the case for this investment and in the meantime will be holding the Government to its word that the people and businesses of the North will see the benefits of the investment confirmed today immediately.”

Damian Waters, CBI North West director, added: "“High quality infrastructure is fundamental to rising living standards and levelling up the country. The Integrated Rail Plan is a significant investment that will go some way towards modernising our ageing rail networks and can be delivered at pace.

"But businesses across the Midlands and Northern England will be justifiably disappointed to see the goalposts have moved at the eleventh hour, and concerned that some of the areas most sorely in need of development will lose out as a result of the scaled-back plans.”

The government has insisted the revised proposals still represent a great deal for the North.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "My mission is to level up opportunity across our country, which is why we’re making train journeys faster and more reliable through the biggest ever public investment in our rail network.

“This is because better rail connections are essential for growing local economies and businesses, and our Integrated Rail Plan will deliver better services to more people, more quickly.

“Levelling up has to be for everyone, not just the biggest cities. That’s why we will transform transport links between our biggest cities and smaller towns, ensuring we improve both long-distance and vital local services and enabling people to move more freely across the country wherever they are.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added:

“Our plan is ambitious, deliverable and backed by the largest single government investment ever made in our rail network. It will deliver punctual, frequent and reliable journeys for everyone, wherever they live.

“Just as the Victorians gave this country our railways nearly 200 years ago, this Integrated Rail Plan will create a modern, expanded railway fit for today and future generations.

"Significant improvements will be delivered rapidly, bringing communities closer together, creating jobs and making places more attractive to business, and in doing so, rebalancing opportunity across the country.

“Our plans go above and beyond the initial ambitions of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail by delivering benefits for communities no matter their size, right across the North and Midlands, up to 10 to 15 years earlier.”