A Northern Rail Pacer Train at Southport Railway Station. Photo by Andrew Brown Media
  • Direct rail connections between Southport, Preston and Ormskirk could soon become a reality after ambitious proposals for the scheme were submitted to the Government
  • A comprehensive document – ‘Restoring Your Railway: Ideas Fund Application for the Burscough Curves’ – outlines the substantial economic and social reasons behind connecting communities across Lancashire and Merseyside, which would directly impact a third of a million local residents and thousands of local businesses.
  • The proposals are sponsored by Southport Conservative MP Damien Moore, West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper, South Ribble Conservative MP Katherine Fletcher, Preston Labour Co-Operative MP Sir Mark Hendrick, Lancashire County Council Leader Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning Cllr Michael Green, and regional campaign group Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association. • 
  • The scheme would see the restoration of the Burscough Curves, relaying two miles of track to reinstate a two-way junction to allow the connections to reopen. 
  • New services would use existing railway stations and add to the separate case for a reopened station at Midge Hall in Leyland.

Direct rail connections between Southport, Preston and Ormskirk could soon become a reality after ambitious proposals for the scheme were submitted to the Government.

The scheme would open two new routes with an hourly service between Preston and Southport. 

It would also create an extension of the existing Merseyrail Liverpool to Ormskirk service with a half hourly service on to Southport.

The ‘high value, low cost’ project could be delivered within two years at a cost of up to £35million.

A comprehensive document – ‘Restoring Your Railway: Ideas Fund Application for the Burscough Curves’ – outlines the substantial economic and social reasons behind connecting communities across Lancashire and Merseyside, which would directly impact a third of a million local residents and thousands of local businesses.

The project aims to reconnect North West towns and cities including Southport, Preston and Ormskirk which were controversially lost due to the infamous Beeching Cuts of the 1960s.

The proposals have strong cross-party support with backing from Southport Conservative MP Damien Moore, West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper, South Ribble Conservative MP Katherine Fletcher, Preston Labour Co-Operative MP Sir Mark Hendrick, Lancashire County Council Leader Councillor Geoff Driver CBE, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Environment and Planning Cllr Michael Green, regional campaign group Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers’ Association, local business leaders and many others.

The scheme would see the restoration of the Burscough Curves, relaying two miles of track to reinstate a two-way junction to allow the connections to reopen.

New services would use existing railway stations and add to the separate case for a reopened station at Midge Hall in Leyland, which closed to passengers in 1961.

The constituencies of Southport, West Lancashire and South Ribble are located between the city regions of Preston, Liverpool and Greater Manchester but the campaigners argue that access and connectivity is a postcode lottery with limited public transport options and arterial roads restricting where people can get to in a reasonable time, especially those without a car.

Rail services and this scheme are central to regional economic development and growth in the post Covid-19 pandemic recovery plans as well as to being essential to achieving zero carbon.

On 3 March Southport and Leyland were awarded substantial Government funding to drive forward ambitious Town Deal schemes, but investment plans for both areas cite connectivity as their biggest constraint.

Ormskirk, with its burgeoning university campus, is often gridlocked; Burscough, with two rail lines and major housing growth, needs better transport links; and the many rural communities in the region are isolated due to poor roads and an under-provided railway.

Southport Conservative MP Damien Moore said: 

“Restoring the Burscough Curves has the capacity to open-up the northern rail network to many people in Southport and West Lancashire who are restricted by poor transportation links.

“By connecting Southport to Preston – via Ormskirk and Leyland – by a direct rail service, we can create greater opportunities for our local economies and encourage more direct investment, whilst enabling people living in our communities more opportunities for leisure and commuting.

“In submitting our proposals to the government under the Restoring Your Railway Fund, the return of the Burscough Curves has taken a big step closer to becoming a reality.

“I am grateful to those MPs who have lent their support to our proposals to reopen this vital service, and to Lancashire County Council and OPSTA which have produced the submission.”

West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper said: 

“The reinstatement of the Burscough Curves would be a major improvement for rail travel in West Lancashire.

“Not only does this give Ormskirk a direct line to Southport, but it provides a much-needed increase in rail links for the rural communities in my constituency. Re-opening these lines will give people in the area so many more options for both leisure and commuting.

“Connecting the Preston to Ormskirk line back to the Merseyrail network at Ormskirk will increase the attractiveness of rail for commuters into Liverpool, reducing the need to travel on the heavily congested A59.”

The Burscough Curves proposals aim to provide cohesive multi modal transport across the region with much faster transport links to all three of these major economic centres and further afield.

Integrating the two rail existing lines would provide essential connectivity for a local population of over 300,000 people, businesses and the visitor economy.

For the first time in 50 years two large centres of population with strong affinity, Southport and Preston would have a direct rail link.

Efficient public transport would be available between Southport and the university town of Ormskirk, across the borough of Sefton and for many rural communities and small towns that serve as dormitories for Preston and Liverpool.

The scheme would greatly improve accessibility from the rest of Lancashire, the north of England and Scotland.

South Ribble Conservative MP Katherine Fletcher said: 

“We have stations in South Ribble that don’t connect to Southport with a direct train and a station at Midge Hall in Leyland where trains stop but passengers can’t get on and off.

“This means for both our communities it’s harder to enjoy an evening out or get to a new job without traffic. Reinstating the curves and Midge Hall fixes that and much more.”

Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick said:

“I am delighted to give my full support to the application by Lancashire County Council for the restoration of the railway at Burscough Curves.

“It is essential that we have effective public transport links to boost the local economy and to reconnect our towns and cities. It is particularly important after the last year, to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and help local struggling businesses.

“The pandemic has also shown us the positive, measurable impact on our environment that the reduction in car usage has had, with natural habitats and wildlife flourishing.

“The reduction in CO2 emissions and improved air quality has also led to better health outcomes and a reduction in respiratory diseases.

“There is a significant link between poor air quality and levels of deprivation, and I am keen to push for this scheme and other transport schemes in and around Preston which seek to improve the air quality and in turn improve the area for us all.

“Reopening the Burscough Curves is estimated to generate over 20% more rail journeys, taking thousands of private cars off the roads daily in and around Preston.

“The A59 between Preston and Southport, West Lancashire and Liverpool is already at 100% capacity. It is vital that we now invest again in our public transport system and the re-opening of the Burscough Curves is essential to help reduce our already higher than national levels of CO2 levels here in Lancashire.”

County Councilor Geoff Driver CBE, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: 

“This rail scheme would open up new opportunities for education and employment, particularly for people in Preston, West Lancashire and Southport. It would provide people with more travel options and reduce travel times for some journeys.

“We’re pleased that the county council is working with our partners to bring together the funding for this business case, which will clearly set out the benefits of the scheme.”

Much of the project work for the case presented to the Government has been carried out by regional rail campaign group Ormskirk Preston Southport Travelers Association (OPSTA).

OPSTA spokesperson Alan Fantom said:

“OPSTA was very pleased to write the application for funding from the Department for Transport for preparation of a business case for the Burscough Curves on behalf of the four sponsoring MPs and with the full backing of Lancashire County Council including their commitment to match DfT funding.

“OPSTA is known for its long-held aspiration to see the Burscough Curves reopened which for those who may not know means there would be a direct rail service to both Preston and Ormskirk (and Aughton, Maghull, Aintree).

“In preparing this bid it became even clearer just how beneficial it will be, its importance to Southport and Leyland and their planned investment through their Town Deals, and how easily it should be to deliver.”

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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