NETWORK Rail has been criticised for not putting on a service to help children get to school after their railway bridge works have caused road closures in Hindley.

Ladies Lane bridge in Hindley is being replaced due to the electrification upgrade on the railway line, meaning there have been weeks of closures.

The construction is panned to last until July, as concerns have already been raised that streets connected have become ‘like a cul-de-sac’, and normal bus routes have been diverted. 

Coun Chris Ready, portfolio holder for Communities and Neighbourhoods at Wigan Council, has been working with his ward peers to try and sort alternative transport to buses for school children, which he believes Network Rail should have provided.

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Leigh Journal: Hindley train station is currently closed as construction is ongoing to electrify the lineHindley train station is currently closed as construction is ongoing to electrify the line (Image: Google Maps)

Although there is no legal obligation to provide minibuses for school children as a result of these works, Network Rail did look into this option but found ‘inadequate turning points’ for their vehicles to get around. This means that a number of children face a walk of just over a mile to the nearest bus stop for transport.

“There are people in Network Rail’s offices saying it’s safe to walk, I wouldn’t expect my children to walk,” Coun Ready told the Local Democracy Reporting Service. “Weather can be atrocious and the Network Rail said it was a safe route to walk.

“They did the work and it’s their responsibility to sort this. Network Rail said they don’t want to pay for it.

“These kids have missed out on education through no fault of their own (during the Covid pandemic). I’m disappointed as there is a danger for kids getting to school, the education aspects and then you have a multi-million bridge replacement yet they can’t put something together to get these kids to school.”

Leigh Journal: Coun Chris Ready expressed his disappointment with Network RailCoun Chris Ready expressed his disappointment with Network Rail (Image: Coun Chris Ready)

Local charity Thrive had been putting on a minibus service for the children in the affected areas, but that came to an end after the Easter holidays. The charity said they did this using their own minibus and paying for petrol out of their own pocket ‘for the good of the community’.

This minibus idea was not set up through Wigan Council or Network Rail. Thrive said they were just ‘happy to help’ and gave the driver Sandy, in his 80’s, a special mention for his driving duties.

Currently Coun Ready is working with Transport for Greater Manchester to try and arrange support for the parents of the children wanting to go to school. Nothing is in place so far.

Network Rail stated that they do not believe this route for children to walk is dangerous – this is due to the fact that road closures mean there is much less traffic going through. However, the cranes in use at the bridge means that the pedestrian walkway across Ladies Lane bridge will be closed on certain days when this is operational.

Leigh Journal: Works to replace Ladies Lane bridge is planned to take place from May until JulyWorks to replace Ladies Lane bridge is planned to take place from May until July (Image: Network Rail)

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We looked at whether we could run shuttle buses during the closure of Ladies Lane bridge for the Wigan to Bolton electrification upgrade. Unfortunately, they weren’t possible due to there being inadequate turning points for the large vehicles at either end of the diversionary route.

“While the road is closed to traffic for the duration of the work, there will be a pedestrian route over the railway by means of a temporary walkway. We’re sorry to those whose road journeys are longer while we carry out this major investment to bring cleaner, greener trains in future between Wigan and Bolton.”

The rail operator is investing £78 million into this scheme which would see 13 miles of railway given an overhaul. It is hoped by Network Rail that by 2025, the electric trains will ‘provide passengers with greener, more comfortable, and more reliable journeys’.