Multi-million pound investment in Clitheroe-Manchester rail link?

A MULTI-MILLION pound scheme to create a bigger and stronger railway carrying twice as many passengers from Clitheroe to Manchester is being explored.

The move follows the signing of a landmark agreement by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to transform the area, with better transport links, jobs and education opportunities and housing.

The investment news has been welcomed by Clitheroe resident Mr Peter Moore (72), chairman of passenger group Ribble Valley Rail. He said: "I am highly delighted this big step forward has been taken. And it certainly is a big step as it will improve not only the Clitheroe to Blackburn to Manchester service, but will encourage people to ditch their cars and use public transport."

There is currently an hourly rail service between Clitheroe, Blackburn and Manchester, with extra half-hourly trains at peak times. But, because of the poor infrastructure, more trains cannot be added.

The improvements, if given the go-ahead, could result in new and improved signalling, increased platform lengths, revamped train carriages and line speeds lifted.

Mr Moore said: "It currently takes one hour and seven minutes from Clitheroe to Manchester. The revamped service will enable rail users to get to Manchester in less than an hour and I am hoping for a half-hourly service.

"Re-shaping rail services will boost the public transport system. It will also result in the creation of lots of jobs. Over the next few years, everybody is going to work together to try to deliver the best."

Mr Richard Watts, Rail Projects Manager for Lancashire County Council, stressed talks were in their early stages and no decisions had been rubber stamped.

"The county council is certainly evaluating a range of rail enhancement projects and will work with partners to determine those, which will deliver the best economic and regeneration benefits to Lancashire," he said.