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Lumo train travelling through the countryside

Direct rail service to London planned for Newton-le-Willows

by Gemma Melling

Newton-le-Willows could soon have a regular rail link direct with the capital, with six services running daily.

The link is the idea of FirstGroup plc, who have submitted the first phase of an application to run a tain service between Rochdale and London, calling at Newton-le-Willows, to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) for approval.

If it goes ahead, it means travellers can jump on the train and Newton-le-Willows, and go direct to London Euston, stopping only once, at Warrington Bank Quay.

This is great news for local travellers, who want a quick and easy way to get into the capital for either business or pleasure.

FirstGroup’s plans are part of its desire to expand its open access rail operations as part of its successful ‘Lumo’ business. Lumo has already introduced services to improve long-distance connectivity between London and Edinburgh and helped support a growth in passenger numbers for all operators on the East Coast Mainline.

FirstGroup’s proposed new service would begin at Rochdale, calling at Manchester Victoria, Eccles, Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Bank Quay. The station at Eccles provides connectivity for other parts of the City of Salford, including the fast-growing MediaCity area, via the nearby interchange with Metrolink and services to Newton-le-Willows will deliver greater rail connectivity for St Helens.

The proposals still await approval, so it will be a little while before the first passengers embark – but it could be up and running sometime in 2027.

It is estimated that this new service would provide 1.6m people in the North West with a convenient and competitively priced direct rail service to London from stations that are more local to them, helping to stimulate a shift in transport mode from coach and car travel to rail.

Furthermore, the new service is expected to have positive benefits for the communities it serves. Both of FirstGroup’s open access services Lumo and Hull Trains have delivered material economic benefits since launch and a direct link to London would certainly be a huge boost for Newton-le-Willows, too.

FirstGroup Chief Executive Officer, Graham Sutherland said: “We have extensive experience of running open access rail operations and we want to bring our successful Lumo service to this new route that connects Rochdale and London. We have seen the level of growth and opportunity that is possible with open access, as well as the positive effect it has on the wider market, including economic and environmental benefits. In addition, the new service will help to drive modal shift from road to rail between the North West and London. We will be working closely with stakeholders as we build our application and our case for this new service.”

When will this happen?

FirstGroup has submitted a formal application to the ORR. A consultation period will now follow, as well as discussion with Network Rail to secure the required approvals. It is anticipated that services could begin in the 2027 calendar year.

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