New Manchester to Burnley fast rail link go-ahead

ALMOST £9m. of Government money is coming to Burnley.

The long-awaited cash boost will bring a faster rail link to Manchester with the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve length of track near Cliviger and cement the ongoing redevelopment work on the Weavers’ Triangle.

The news could lead to 1,000 new jobs being created over the next decade.

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The Government has approved an £8.8m. bid for the two linked projects from its Regional Growth Fund that helps create economic growth and new jobs. The cash means another step towards a direct rail link between Burnley and Manchester and halve current journey times to 45 minutes.

It also paves the way to more than £50m. of investment by Barnfield Investment Properties in the Weavers’ Triangle to redevelop the historically important weaving mills along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and lead to significant numbers of new jobs.

The successful bid, submitted by Barnfield Investment Properties, Network Rail, Burnley Council and Lancashire County Council, means two key priorities for Burnley that the council has worked on tenaciously for a number of years are being delivered.

Tim Webber, Managing Director of Barnfield Investment Properties who are working with the council, said: “Barnfield are committed to the Weavers’ Triangle: it has regional historical significance, and great economic potential for the region’s future.

“There is something really positive happening in Burnley – the way the business community came together to support our bid not only fills me with great personal pride, having worked in this area for many years, but it also serves as an example to other areas across the country who seek to move towards private sector-led growth.”

The delighted leader of Burnley Council, Coun. Charlie Briggs, said the announcement was great news. “There are aspects of the local economy Burnley Council cannot control: global deficits, the strength of the pound, mortgage rates, but when we can make a difference, we work hard until we do. I am really proud of all those who have made this possible, and proud of the partnership working between businesses and the public sector, and the important influence of Gordon Birtwistle, our local MP, who has been very active in pressing the case for this and a number of other economic development priorities. Burnley Council will now continue to work closely with Lancashire County Council and all our private sector partners, to make a real difference to this part of the county.”

MP Mr Birtwistle said: “There were many who believed this day would never come, who believed our heritage had no part in our future, who doubted Burnley could ever have a commutable ‘city-offer’. Well, this is a sign we’re on the way. This Government has delivered and over the coming years jobs will result from this announcement. This is great news for Burnley and the surrounding area too.”

County Coun. Tim Ashton, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Creating a fast rail link between Burnley and Manchester is our number one priority in improving rail transport in the county. Reinstating the Todmorden Curve is vital for boosting jobs and economic growth in this part of Lancashire, so I am very pleased central government has recognised the hard work of all involved and approved this bid. We look forward to working with all the other partners to make this fast rail link a reality.”

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The Todmorden Curve is 500m of new rail track and signalling. Network Rail, commissioned by Burnley Council and supported by Lancashire County Council, undertook technical and engineering studies to prove to the Government that reinstatement was possible.

Business leaders in Burnley will be delighted by the news as 30 of the town’s largest employers wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg supporting the proposal by Barnfield to invest in the 3.9 hectare development in the Sandygate area of the Weavers’ Triangle.