Plans to slash the number of train services in Wigan would be ‘catastrophic’ for the borough, a council leader has warned.

Proposals, developed by a taskforce including the Department for Transport, have been designed to improve reliability following “years of under investment in rail infrastructure”.

Each of the three separate plans would see the hourly fast train service from Cumbria to Manchester Airport via Wigan North Western diverted to run via Bolton instead.

The frequency of services from Atherton would also be reduced. 

And David Molyneux, leader of Wigan Council, believes all three options would have serious consequences for Wigan Borough. 

Hitting out at the proposals, he said: “Greater Manchester rail passengers have been experiencing poor performance for too long.

“Alternative solutions, such as improved infrastructure, must be explored before passengers are further penalised with reduced levels of service.

Atherton train station
Atherton station would be affected by the proposals

“The taskforce was supposed to recommend improvements to rail services, not make an already poor service worse.

"If approved, these options would have catastrophic consequences for local commuters and businesses and would seriously hamper our aspirations for world class connections that support long-term, sustainable economic growth and access to opportunity for all.” 

In January, proposals to build a new £15m railway station in Golborne were approved by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. 

However, Councillor Molyneux fears the scheme could now be in jeopardy.  

He continued: “Residents and politicians have been fighting for a train station in Golborne for years, but these options undermine all that work, with the removal of the airport line detrimental to this particular scheme.

Network Rail has helped develop the plans
Proposals to build a new £15m railway station in Golborne were approved in January

“The north should have never been put in the position of deciding which services to axe to reach a minimal acceptable level of performance.

"This is not levelling up; this is another example of the north being left behind.” 

The leader has written to all the borough’s MPs urging them to speak out against the proposals and to explore alternative options. 

Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, is among those who have expressed concerns over the matter.

A consultation commenced on January 15 and will close on March 10.

If plans are approved in Spring 2021, changes will be implemented from May 2022. 

The taskforce, which has developed the plans, comprises the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Northern, TransPennine Express, Transport for the North and Transport for Greater Manchester. 

It was set up in January 2020 to address unacceptable levels of train performance in the north west of England.