Friday, July 8, 2022

West Lancashire Borough Council's response to Department of Transport decision to block Skelmersdale rail link plans

Yesterday, we received notification from the Department of Transport that the Skelmersdale Rail Link Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC) which was formally submitted to Central Government in September 2021 has been rejected.

The reason stated was that "the construction of a new line into Skelmersdale does not make a compelling case for prioritisation. This reflects both the high anticipated capital costs of those options, as well as the poor value for money assessment." They go on to say that they "…understand the strong strategic case for enhancing public transport connectivity to Skelmersdale to support economic regeneration and carbon reduction. The Department will continue to advise and explore other options."

Councillor Yvonne Gagen, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said: "We are incredibly disappointed in the Department for Transport's decision and this will be a bitter blow to the people of Skelmersdale who will undoubtedly feel they have been let down by the Government's decision.

"A rail link would have created significant opportunities for them to connect with the wider region and to take advantage of all the subsequent increased investment and regeneration opportunities that would bring.

"We welcome the DfT's acknowledgement of the need to invest in public transport connectivity in Skelmersdale. However, we feel strongly that a rail link would have been the best and most effective way to achieve this, and we will continue to fight for the decision to be reversed.

"As a Council, we have been working hard to deliver ambitious development projects that will bring further prosperity to Skelmersdale; the fantastic Tawd Valley Centre has just recently opened and we have also committed to a major new Health and Wellbeing Hub.

"Given Government funding for rail investment is over-subscribed with a high level of competition, a change in decision is highly unlikely.

"Despite this setback, we can assure the people of Skelmersdale that we will continue to work tirelessly to explore and forge ahead with improvement plans, which we hope will include a rail link, that offer residents the significantly improved connectivity and sustainable transport solutions they deserve."