The Burscough Curves were two sections of rail track which connected the Southport to Burscough train line with Preston to the north, and Ormskirk and Liverpool to the South.
Unfortunately this line was axed as part of the Beeching cuts during the 1960s, and ever since Southport residents have overwhelmingly sought their return.
The track meant that Southport residents could commute by train to Preston and Ormskirk – and beyond – without having to make the 15 minute walk to change from Burscough Bridge station to Burscough Junction.
I believe that the restoration of the Curves would be relatively low cost, and would provide substantial economic benefits for Southport and the wider Lancashire area. The increase in visitors and footfall to our town that the project would ensure would be a massive boost to businesses as they recover from Covid-19.
I began making representations to the Government on this issue just after my election in 2017. In January 2018 I invited the then Secretary of State for Transport to a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss connectivity issues, including the Burscough Curves. The Transport Secretary assured us that he would take the issues raised away for consideration.
Southport’s opportunity came in January 2020 when the Government introduced a £500 million Restoring your Railways Fund, the objective of which is to provide funding to communities across the country that will benefit from better rail connections and boost access to jobs and education.
In February 2020 I joined with a strong team of neighbouring MPs – on a cross-party basis – to submit a joint proposal to the Restoring your Railways Fund to see the Curves’ return. Those involved include West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher, Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick, as well as Geoff Driver, the leader of Lancashire County Council. Our proposals are also being supported by the Ormskirk, Preston, and Southport Travellers’ Association.
Also in February I asked the Prime Minister whether he agreed with me that the re-instatement of the Burscough Curves would help Southport unleash our economic potential. The Prime Minister agreed, saying it was a great idea. You can watch this here.
We made our first submission to the Restoring your Railways Fund in March 2020, and received written feedback on this in July.
Across November and December 2020 we worked closely with the Department for Transport on polishing our proposals, to give them as good a chance as possible at our next submission.
We submitted our further plans in March 2021, and at the same time Lancashire County Council announced that they would either 'top-up' or 'match fund' any funding offered by the Department for Transport.
Since March, I have corresponded and held meetings regularly with Department for Transport ministers and officials. The most recent meeting was in late August 2021 between myself, Rosie Cooper MP, and Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP.
In November 2021 it was announced that the Burscough Curves bid hadn't been selected by the Department, but that there were other paths to explore. A further meeting has been scheduled, and I will ensure that constituents are kept updated.