Lancashire County Council has already committed £4.32m to develop the business case for a new station at Headbolt Lane in Knowsley and a branch running north to Skelmersdale town centre.

The project would involve reconnecting the lines to Liverpool and Wigan at Kirkby, where Merseyrail and Northern services currently terminate. Skelmersdale would then become the new interchange for services from Liverpool and Wigan.

Merseytravel says the delivery of new Stadler trains for the Merseyrail network from 2020, and trials to run them beyond the 750V dc third rail network, could help inform the specification for the Skelmersdale scheme, potentially meaning electrification may not be required. Merseytravel says that while these trains will all be supplied as EMUs it will be possible to configure the sets as IPEMUs for operation on non-electrified lines. 

Merseytravel says that the project, which has an estimated pricetag of around £300m, could be completed within 10 years if it develops a strong business case and secures the necessary funding.

The project is part of Liverpool City Region’s 30-year vision for the rail network in Merseyside, which was published in August 2014.