WORK on the 'much-needed' £19 million Warrington West railway station in Chapelford is ready to start after years of planning.

Council leader Cllr Terry O'Neill carried out the ceremonial sod-cutting ceremony at the site of the station, which is set to have direct links to the town centre, Manchester and Liverpool today, Monday.

The milestone event paves the way for work to commence ahead of its planned opening next year.

Last year the Department for Transport confirmed the station would benefit from £4.2 million of Government funding from the new stations fund.

The remainder of the £19 million project cost will come from the council and local growth funding from Warrington and Cheshire Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as developer contributions.

Cllr O'Neill (LAB – Burtonwood and Winwick) said: "This will be a tremendous boost for the area, hopefully it will be up and running in 2019.

"Hopefully, the station will relieve all of the congestion in the area.

"I did not expect it to cost so much but you have to pay what you have to pay and I think it will deliver great benefits.

"It will be a tremendous development for everyone in west Warrington and is something that is much-needed in the borough."

Warrington South MP Faisal Rashid, who campaigned for the station during his time as borough councillor, also attended the ceremony.

He said: "I think this is a really good moment for the area and for me personally as well.

"I remember looking at the vision for the whole area and pushed hard to keep this in the pipeline and the council then decided to keep it going.

"Next year I want this massive site to be serving the community.

“This station is not just for Chapelford residents, it is for the whole of west Warrington."

The council said the development site will include a 'high-quality station building which echoes local history' with a building design based on an aircraft hangar, a staffed facility to improve customer service and promote safety, as well as secure parking.

Station operators Northern are obligated to serve the station with one semi-fast train and two stopping trains per hour, linking west Warrington directly with Liverpool, Warrington town centre, Birchwood and Manchester.

A council spokesman said: "The council is still committed to keeping Sankey for Penketh station open after Warrington West becomes operational in 2019.

"We will continue to lobby the rail industry for a better level of service than the base franchise obligation of a reduced peak hour only service."