Southport to Preston rail line could be a 'quick win' says Transport Minister

Chris Grayling will look at re-opening Burscough Curves in a bid to improve rail links in the North West

Rail lines between Southport, Preston and Ormskirk could be re-opened as a “quick win” to improve rail services in the North West.

Transport Minister Chris Grayling revealed he was looking into the viability of the scheme as he visited Southport on Thursday to support the election campaign of Conservative Liverpool City Region metro mayor candidate Tony Caldeira.

Mr Grayling said: “Re-opening the Burscough Curves and reinstating direct rail links between Southport, Preston and Ormskirk is a project I am going to take a close look at.

“Over the next few years I want to see more and more commuters being taken off the roads and onto rail.”

The Minister said he is keen to improve rail connectivity between towns and cities in the North West, and that restoring previously operational routes, rather than building completely new lines, are the type of “quick win” solutions he is keen to explore.

During the rail restructuring of the 1960s and 1970s, the Burscough Curves, which formed a link between the Ormskirk-Preston and Southport-Wigan lines were removed, although the formation survives. The North Curve was taken out of use and severed in July 1969, last used for a Saturdays only empty train from Blackpool to Southport. The South Curve saw its last train in 1982.

The passenger service from Ormskirk, through to Burscough Junction and on to Southport, which used the southern curve, was withdrawn in 1962.

Various schemes have been proposed, including the full electrification of the line from Southport via Burscough to Ormskirk using the same third rail system as Merseyrail.

Mr Grayling said: “I have spoken to the Conservative team in Southport today about the prospect of re-opening the Burscough Curves, and I want to look at this and see what we can do.

“But this is clearly one where I can see the benefits.

“I am looking at projects like this where we can increase rail connectivity in the region by reviving previous routes which have been lost for half a century.

“It is the kind of scheme we are looking to do more of in the future.”

He added that other changes were coming for rail passengers in the Merseyside region over the next few years, with new services, more trains, and getting rid of the hated Pacer trains from the Southport to Manchester rail line.