Major overhaul of rail links planned

The East Lancashire Line – the rail link between the area and Preston and Manchester – is set for a major overhaul.

By Andrew Spencer
Tuesday, 2nd June 2015, 3:33 pm
County Coun. John Fillis at Burnley's Manchester Road Station (s)
County Coun. John Fillis at Burnley's Manchester Road Station (s)

The case for future improvements to the local network is set out on a new report from Lancashire County Council.

The county council’s research concludes the best way to unlock the area’s economic potential would be to electrify key routes linking East Lancashire towns to the major growth centres of Leeds and Manchester.

Modern rolling stock and better station facilities are highlighted as critical aims and more frequent trains and shorter journey times are also seen as a top priority.

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The report to County Coun. John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, sets out the county council’s position for future negotiations with the Government, Network Rail, Rail North and train operators about the next wave of rail investment due to start in 2019.

It identifies that electrification of the full Calder Valley, including the route to Preston via Burnley and the Bolton to Clitheroe route, has been identified as a priority by the North of England Electrification Task Force for the next round of investment from 2019 to 2024.

And it also says the capacity of the Calder Valley line between Todmorden and Leeds could become an issue in future, and alternative options between Burnley and Leeds such as reinstatement of the line between Colne and Skipton may need to be assessed.

County Coun. Fillis said: “Quick, reliable, transport connections are vital to ensure people and goods can move efficiently and support our economy, and significant investment is needed in East Lancashire’s rail network if the area is to realise its potential in the coming years.

“We’re already working closely with the rail industry, district councils and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership to deliver improvements, such as the new direct Burnley to Manchester service.

“And further improvements are already programmed which will see more frequent and reliable trains between Clitheroe, Blackburn and Manchester within the next two years.

“The priorities I’ve agreed this week look beyond this and identify the improvements that the county council’s research suggests will make the biggest impact in the future.

“This is the evidence we need for negotiations with the rail industry about the next round of investment, to ensure we build upon recent successes and continue to see much needed investment in rail in East Lancashire.”