The Anonymous Widower

Government Boost To Reopen Skelmersdale Rail Link To Manchester And Liverpool

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Lancs Live.

These two paragraphs give the whole story.

Rosie Cooper says the government has given her new assurances that it is committed to creating a Skelmersdale rail link.

Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris told the West Lancashire Labour MP that an initial £500m funding pot set aside for reopening lines closed under the Beeching Act could be used towards ongoing efforts for Skelmersdale.

To my mind, Skelmersdale illustrates the appalling planning of the 1960s.

These dates are from Wikipedia.

  • November 5th, 1956 – Skelmersdale station closed to passenger services.
  • January 10th, 1957 – Harold Macmillan becomes Prime Minister
  • 1961 – Skelmersdale was designated a new town.
  • March 27th, 1963 – Beeching Report
  • October 19th, 1963 – Sir Alec Douglas Hume becomes Prime Minister
  • November 4th, 1963 – Skelmersdale station closed to all services.
  • October 16th, 1964 – Harold Wilson becomes Prime Minister
  • 1968-1970 – The M58 opens to connect Skelmersdale to the M6 and the M57 at Switch Island.
  • June 19th, 1970 – Edward Heath becomes Prime Minister.

It looks like a rail connection to the new town was removed, but a comprehensive road network was built.

This policy seems to be very different to decisions taken at Billericay, Crawley, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, Kirkby, Milton Keynes and Stevenage, where rail connections were at least maintained.

The Latest Plan For Skelmersdale Station

This is the latest plan for Skelmersdale station, according to the Wikipedia entry.

It has been proposed a new station at Skelmersdale would act as the terminus for Merseyrail’s Northern Line, with connections available to Wigan and Manchester. Initial estimates suggest that the scheme could cost around £300 million to develop. On page 36 of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, it states that Merseytravel is currently working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to develop a plan to extend the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale, with work completed in 2019. They are considering 3rd rail electrification and other alternatives with a new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the Northwood area of Kirkby. The document on page 37 states two trials of electric 3rd rail/battery trains will be undertaken in 2020, this is one of the “alternatives”

Lancashire County Council approved a plan in May 2019 to commission an outline business case into reopening the station which will be presented to the government.


  1. The possible site of Headbolt Lane station and the Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale are about 8 miles apart.
  2. Will the trains to Wigan and Manchester be direct or via a change at the new Headbolt Lane station?
  3. The reference to battery-electric trains, which would be able to handle the sixteen-mile round trip easily.

The site of the station will be at the former Glenburn Sports College, which is a couple of hundred metres to the East of the Concourse Shopping Centre.

This Google Map shows the location.

I would feel that this is very convenient.

  • The former Glenburn Sports college is marked by the red arrow.
  • The Concourse Shopping Centre is to the West of the station.
  • The station would be well-connected to the road network.
  • The approach track to the station could probably run by the side of Southway and cross it using a bridge or underpass.

This second Google Map shows the station in relation to the Kirkby Branch Line.


  1. The Glenburn Campus is indicated with the red marker at the top of the map.
  2. The M58 goes across the map.
  3. Rainford station is in the South-West corner of the map.
  4. Upholland station is on the Eastern edge of the map below the M58.

The Kirkby Branch Line links the two stations.

  • The Kirkby Branch Line continues to the West to the new Headbolt Lane station, Kirkby station and Liverpool city centre.
  • The Kirkby Branch Line continues to the East to Wigan Wallgate, Bolton and Manchester Victoria stations.
  • The Kirkby Branch Line is double-track to the East of Rainford and single-track to the West.

How will Skelmersdale station be connected to the Kirkby Branch Line?

If you look at the previous map, notice that a network of roads lead down from the Concourse Shopping Centre and then go under the M58. From the Google Map, it looks like the roads go under the M58 where there is a generous bridge.

This Google Map shows the section of the route on both sides of the M58.

It looks to me that a single-track railway could be run between the new Skelmersdale station and the Kirkby Branch Line.

  • Merseyrail’s new Class 777 trains are not large trains and I am certain a single track could be squeezed in alongside the roads.
  • The distance is about three miles and a train would take about six minutes or around about fifteen minutes for the round trip.
  • Four trains per hour (tph) would be possible, which is the same frequency as the current service between Kirkby station and Liverpool.

Putting this together, I think the following would be possible.

  • A single track line without electrification between the Kirkby Branch Line and the new Skelmersdale station to the East of the Concourse Shopping Centre on the Glenburn Sports Campus site.
  • Class 777 trains would use battery power to the East of Headbolt Lane station.
  • The trains would charge their batteries between Liverpool and Headbolt Lane station.
  • The branch would leave the Kirkby Branch Line to the East of Headbolt Lane station.
  • Up to four tph between Liverpool Central and Skelmersdale stations, calling at all stations.
  • Up to two tph between Headbolt Lane and Manchester Victoria stations via Wigan.
  • Passengers between Skelmersdale and Manchester would change at Headbolt Lane station.

Other schemes would be possible, but allowing a direct Manchester and Skelmersdale service might be complicated and add substantially to the cost.





April 12, 2020 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , ,


  1. This is interesting. I grew up in that area. My thoughts are based on the sociology of the area, places which consider them selves “well to do, posh etc” And Places that others consider “not nice places” even though the spelling of the place has changed. I can imagine parents telling teenagers not to catch certain trains “because you don’t know what sort of people will get on at XXX”

    I am not naming names of places. I knew people from the “Not nice places” when I lived there, and they were nice, good, friendly people. BUT perceptions take a long time to change.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | April 13, 2020 | Reply

    • Merseyrail’s current trains are some of the oldest in the country, although if you get on them, they look like some of the newest, in very clean condition. There is no graffiti.

      The new trains they will be getting this year, will be some of the best Metro trains in Europe. Knowing Liverpool as I do, I suspect they will be well-looked after.

      But then when a rough area of a city, get old trains replaced with shiny new ones, they ae generally treated well by passengers.

      Comment by AnonW | April 13, 2020 | Reply

  2. Slight correction: the Glendale college site is actually to the west of the shopping centre, on the other side of the Southway ('52.1%22N+2%C2%B046'37.6%22W/@53.5482927,-2.7747708,1328m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d53.5478!4d-2.7771?hl=en). The site you’ve identified is an office block. The actual site is still convenient to walk to and the track will follow the route you marked out but with the advantage of not needing to cross any busy roads. It’s also large enough to include provision for parking. My understanding is both the Wigan line and the Kirkby line will be redirected to terminate in Skem, making that the point to change.

    Comment by S | April 14, 2020 | Reply

  3. Thanks for that!

    In a post a couple of years ago, I felt that Skelmersdale was the place to change. But that was only after a brief recce!

    Comment by AnonW | April 14, 2020 | Reply

  4. The original Merseyrail plan was have a direct line to Wigan from Liverpool via Kirkby. That is easily done with battery-electric trains. Because of the range of the 777 trains, there is no need for the expense of a charger at Wigan. It is just a matter of timetabling.

    Comment by John | July 6, 2020 | Reply

    • Thanks!

      Is the bay platform 3 at Wigan Wallgate ever used?

      Comment by AnonW | July 6, 2020 | Reply

      • Yes, the bay platform is for Southport and Kirkby trains. So a Liverpool service by a battery 777 would use that platform.

        Wigan to Southport is a candidate for Merseyrail battery 777s – 16 miles and staight most of the way.

        Comment by John | July 6, 2020

  5. A station guy at Wigan North Western, said there are some good ideas going around to sort out the two Wigan stations.

    It appears that North Western is HS2-ready, as is Lime Street. Both only need 200 metre platforms and an 11-car Pendelino is longer.

    Comment by AnonW | July 6, 2020 | Reply

    • Metro-mayor of Liverpool is looking at building a new HS2/NPR station with longer platforms.
      The great thing about Liverpool is that if the Wapping tunnel is recommissioned all local trains will be underground running into Central in the city centre, leaving Lime St for long haul.

      Even Manchester trains can be diverted underground, by refitting the 3rd rail shoes.

      Comment by John | July 6, 2020 | Reply

      • But Central would need extending, which it needs anyhow.

        Comment by John | July 6, 2020

    • If 777s are run from Liverpool to Wigan, it gives people the choice of Liverpool or Wigan to catch HS2 – if it ever get that far which I doubt. I am an anti HS2 man.

      Comment by John | July 6, 2020 | Reply

      • I had friends in my old University; Liverpool, who believe that High Speed Two and Northern Powerhouse Rail will be the biggest thing to hit the city since the Beatles!

        Comment by AnonW | July 7, 2020

      • Not one nut & Bolt of HS2 is going within 20 miles of Liverpool. NPR rail will benefit Liverpool and all the North of England for sure, if it is “high speed”, and with a Pennines ‘base’ tunnel going direct to Liverpool, not looping via an airport station that sees few passengers, which may not be there in 20 years time on environmental grounds (best have them over water). R&D is ongoing on 2,000 passenger seaplanes. Water has many runways which are free to maintain. Planes will go the way of ships, being large for economic reasons. Trans-Atlantic routes will use bays or estuaries.

        What £107bn buys you; the price of HS2 high-speed rail from London serving only three cities directly:

        – 200 flagship hospitals similar to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth.
        – 1,660,000 new social homes according to Shelter. That is MILLION!
        – 25 Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers
        – to supply & fit 4kW array of solar panels to 15 million homes

        HS2 is SLOW. The 100 miles from London to Birmingham is covered in 52 minutes averaging 116mph on a 250mph railway.
        HS2 Ltd say that HS2 is needed because they are running out of capacity below Rugby, which it is not. WCML can branch into the Gt.Central trackbed (only 40 miles of it) at Rugby running to London on the Gt.Central Aylesbury bypass. This gives an extra two tracks into London bypassing WCML south of Rugby. Solved for pennies.

        Comment by John | July 7, 2020

  6. to bring this up to date:
    Lancs CC submitted their SOBC to the DfT in September This puts forward several options, of which the favoured (though most expensive) one is a heavy rail link into the town centre. There’s a map of the options on p6 of the executive summary. Service level: “2tph to/from Liverpool and 1tph to/from Manchester is believed to be the minimum required”. It seems clear that the Merseyrail service would be battery-powered. Given prompt approval, could be in operation by 2027-8.
    The preferred option has been added to OpenStreetMap, and so now appears on (I think this is rather jumping the gun, as it’s not approved or certain it will go ahead.)

    Comment by Peter Robins | December 16, 2021 | Reply

    • Thanks! I’ll look at it when I get home. Currently on a Grand Central train from Mirfield to KX. Ipaid £11.85 for a seat in First. Or I could be in the wrong seat!

      Comment by AnonW | December 16, 2021 | Reply

      • I can only see the cheapest option accepted.

        Comment by John | December 16, 2021

      • It would be cheaper to build a parallel single track bridge over the M57 to make the line twin track. The bridge is about 45 years old, so newish. There is no way they will interrupt traffic. No plans for that yet. Probably will be when the Skem station is announced. Headbolt Lane is being built for twin track.

        Comment by John | January 17, 2022

  7. When will the railway station be built in Skelmersdale?

    Comment by Paul Burke | January 16, 2022 | Reply

    • No plan yet. But construction on Headbolt Lane station Kirkby has started. This incorporates twin track back to Kirkby Station and a renewed bridge to take twin track. It may eventually go twin track back to Aintree Race course.

      If rain were not to go to Wigan or Skem then why is all this being done?

      Comment by John | January 17, 2022 | Reply

      • Fair point! Do you mean the bridge at Kirkby station?

        Comment by AnonW | January 17, 2022

      • The bridge just SW of Headbolt Lane. Single track but being made into twin track all the way back to Kirkby station. Which will need a new platform when Skem/Wigan trains start up. To have twin track back to Aintree from Kirkby the bridge over the M57 will need to be twin tracked.

        Comment by John | January 17, 2022

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