PLANS for quicker rail links between Burnley and Manchester are on track after councillors decided it was a "top priority".
Burnley Council's Executive Committee has approved a report to secure a 45-minute direct rail link to Manchester which builds on council-led investigations into the possibility of re-opening the Todmorden Curve and improving rail links for Burnley within East Lancashire.
It was also approved in the report that improvements should take place at Manchester Road, upgrading the station to a staffed facility, rather than at Central Station, to link with the potential direct link to Manchester.
Coun. Martin Smith, the council's member responsible for regeneration and economic development, said: "This council has been working for years on a bid to ensure the people of Burnley and surrounding areas are able to tap into super economies like Manchester's.
"Connectivity is key for the borough. That is why we have commissioned feasibility studies, why we have worked energetically to ensure the issue gets the attention it deserves – it is one of the key drivers of regeneration for the borough, and why we have identified rail as a clear council priority."
The report from Colin Buchanan Consultants, following discussions with Network Rail, has shown a route via Todmorden would cost around 4m. compared with a previous estimate of 8.2m. This means the scheme is potentially eligible for a Network Rail funding.
Council leader Coun. Gordon Birtwistle said: "Over the next 10 years it's predicted Manchester will create 100,000 new jobs. Unless we get this link it's going to be difficult to get the prosperity we want. The Todmorden Curve is crucial to this."
Director for Regeneration and Housing Mr Mike Cook told the committee he was confident the scheme would take place and described it as "the over-riding economic priority for the borough".