The Leader of Wigan Council said he's disappointed to hear the section of the proposed HS2 line through to Wigan is to be reconsidered.
The Government gave the go ahead to the project earlier this week despite a 100 billion pound price tag, however the Transport Secretary has signalled section known as the Golborne Spur is likely to be axed, in part, after lobbying from the new Leigh MP James Grundy.
Council Leader David Molyneux who supports the route has asked for clarification from the Government.
The Golborne spur, which would run through the town and the neighbouring village of Lowton, has encountered significant opposition from residents, councillors and MPs.
If approved, the 12.1km section will leave the main high-speed route from Crewe to Manchester before rejoining the West Coast Main Line south of Wigan.
Mr Shapps has suggested that the plans could be reworked within the year amid concerns over its value for money.
He said: “The Golborne Spur is currently projected to cost between two and three billion, but delivers very little for that sum.
“The writing is on the wall as far as the future of the Golborne Spur is concerned. We expect to make the final decision on it in months, not years.”
Mr Shapps was responding to questions from James Grundy and Andy Carter, Conservative MPs for Leigh and Warrington South respectively.
While both politicians were elected to Westminster last December, Mr Grundy has long opposed the Golborne spur on behalf of Lowton residents he still represents as councillor.
Welcoming the secretary of state’s response as a ‘strong indication’ of the link being cancelled, Mr Grundy said: “I have been campaigning against this poorly conceived idea for over seven years now.
“It will come as a great relief to thousands of my constituents in both Golborne and Lowton, including members of my own family, that this saga is finally coming to a close, and people can again have certainty when it comes to investing in their homes and local businesses.”
Mr Grundy has now called on Wigan council to withdraw its support for the spur. The Labour-run authority has backed HS2 – including the Golborne spur – from the outset.
He also echoed the campaign of his Labour parliamentary predecessor, Jo Platt, for a bigger push to reopen stations at Golborne and Kenyon Junction to reconnect Leigh to the national rail network.
Coun David Molyneux, leader of Wigan council, welcomed prime minister Boris Johnson’s support of HS2 and urged its construction ‘as soon as possible’ to benefit Wigan and the whole of the North West.
He added: I’m calling for clarity regarding Phase 2b of the project.
“A letter addressed to Wigan Council received from the transport secretary this week outlines that the government remains committed to Phase 2b but, as part of an integrated plan for rail in the North, there will be further assessment of current designs.
“It is disappointing to have seen comments reported in the media that go much further, specifically highlighting that the Golborne spur could be reconsidered.
“Alternatives have already been considered – including upgrades to the West Coast Main Line or a link further south of Golborne – but were rejected as they would impact on the benefits that HS2 is predicted to produce.
“Wigan is one of few places nationally that will have a high speed rail station and HS2’s arrival here would position us as a regional transport hub.
“Significantly improved connections for the north will also go a long way to rebalancing our country’s economy.
“Further uncertainty and mixed messages about aspects of the project are far from helpful for all concerned."