Work is now underway to develop the Newton-le-Willows interchange which will see rail passengers benefit from improved station facilities and a new park and ride offering.
Representatives from the key partners involved in the scheme, along with local MP Conor McGinn, were on-hand to see the start of construction last Friday (13th January), receiving a briefing on the work due to take place and a tour of the site.
Network Rail, along with principal contractor Galliford Try, is leading this phase of the work, following on from the development of the first phase of the new car park by Merseytravel last year.
Work has started with the preparatory work at the north entrance to the station to build a new subway underneath the railway line, which will form part of the improved facilities at the station.
The scheme will see a new main station entrance and ticket office established on the south side of the tracks on Alfred Street and other improvements, including:
· Step free access to and between the platforms via new subway and lifts
· New toilet facilities
· Bus interchange adjacent to the new ticket office
· New 400-space car park
· Dedicated drop-off and pick-up area
· Improved passenger waiting facilities
· Additional cycle parking
The new facilities are expected to be ready for public use in March 2018.
The overall scheme is costing £17.95m and is funded by the Local Growth Fund and Merseytravel. It is a key project in Merseytravel’s Long Term Rail Strategy and the Growth Deal for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, as well as the St Helens Local Development Framework. It forms part of the wider £340m investment by the Liverpool City Region in rail improvements over the next three years.
The improvements to the station, currently managed by train operator Northern, aim to help create a strategic transport hub, linking up to the local transport network with strategic rail links across the country, building on the electrification works that have already taken place on the Liverpool-to-Manchester line. It will also help support the future development of the nearby former Parkside Colliery site.
The start of work on the new station building has seen car parking move to the new car park on the site of the former Mill Green School, accessed from the junction next to the Millstone Pub on Mill Lane.
The number of spaces currently available in the new park is capped at 100 in response to temporary restrictions in the planning permission granted by St Helens Council due to restricted access to the site. The full car-park facility, which will have 400-spaces, is scheduled to open in March 2018 when the full scheme is completed.
Pedestrian access to the north entrance is being maintained throughout the works, but vehicle access is now restricted, with a small drop-off only area at the bottom of the access lane. Very limited provision for blue-badge parking is available near the north entrance, with further spaces on the new car park site.
Conor McGinn, MP for St Helens North, said: "I welcome this significant investment and am delighted to see work begin on the new transport interchange in Newton-le-Willows.
“The hugely improved facilities and enhanced connectivity to Liverpool, Manchester - and from next year the TransPennine Route - will significantly benefit local commuters and help bring visitors to our area."
Cllr Gordon Friel, Merseytravel Deputy Chair and Lead Member for Rail, said: “It’s great to see work get underway on the Newton-le-Willows interchange scheme, which will bring huge benefits to rail users through improved facilities.
“The scheme is a prime example of our Long Term Rail Strategy being put into practice, and will establish a transport hub which will link local transport with strategic rail links across the country that I am sure will give a boost to the local economy.”
Sal Husein, Network Rail Sponsor for the scheme, said: “The new Newton-le-Willows interchange is part of a £340 million investment package in the railway of the Liverpool City Region that will bring better connectivity, new stations and services by 2019.”
St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Growth, Cllr John Fulham said:
“Newton-le-Willows' rich railway heritage will soon be matched with a top class station following a multi-million investment by St Helens Council, the City Region and Merseytravel.
“Passenger traffic has grown by 40 per cent since 2010 and is set to grow further following electrification of the line and the arrival of the Trans-Pennine Express line next year, cutting journey times and adding more connections. The new bus links will make it easier for people to access the line, and the hundreds of new car spaces will ease congestion for neighbours.
“It is also a crucial element in our plans to create thousands of new jobs at Parkside. We are all committed to make this a success and to deliver much needed jobs for St Helens.”
Sharon Keith, Regional Director for Northern, said: “The redevelopment of Newton-le-Willows works in tandem with our own modernisation programme to deliver significant improvements for customers in the area.
“The changes at the station will be complemented by our own programme which will see the refurbishment of our current trains, the removal of Pacers from the network, and the introduction of 281 new, purpose built carriages – all by the end of 2019.
“The Newton-le-Willows project involves several agencies working together for the good of local rail users and it is a true testament to what can be achieved through strong partnerships.”
Wes McKee, Rail Director for Galliford Try said: "We are looking forward to progressing this important project as smoothly and with little disruption to rail users as possible.
“The work follows on from our successful refurbishment of two stations on the Merseyrail network in Liverpool and Birkenhead."