New rail link plan would be ‘feasible and cost effective’
PROPOSALS for a new rail link could be on track after a study found it was ‘feasible and cost effective’.
The line would run from Rochdale to Bury and Rawtenstall using lines that were closed in the 1960s.
Politicians, business leaders and officers, including Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd, met with Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry in London to update him on the findings of the early strategic case for rail investment.
A letter signed by MPs and council leaders has gone to the Transport for the North (TfN) calling for the link to be included in its forthcoming Investment Programme
Five options were evaluated in the report and three would connect back to national rail network through a new track from the East Lancashire Railway terminus in Heywood - linking Rochdale to Bury, Ramsbottom and Rossendale.
Rochdale Council leader Councillor Allen Brett said: “As a borough we benefit from excellent transport links and are well connected to both public transport and the national motorway network.
“However, it’s no secret that some parts of Rochdale borough are much better served by public transport than others.
“We are already campaigning for a tram stop connecting Middleton to Manchester and would also support any rail link, such as the proposed Rossendale to Manchester line, which will better connect Heywood with the rest of our borough and also with Bury and Manchester.”
The report describes a ‘promising option’ as a peak period shuttle service between Rawtenstall and Bury using the East Lancashire Railway and a new heavy rail link from a disused platform at Bury Bolton Street Station to Castleton.
Marketing and Campaigns Director of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Chris Fletcher said: “The ability to move people and freight around a lot easier will become even more important over the coming years to energise local economies and boost growth.
“Getting the balance right of improving existing connections and building new links is crucial if the region’s economy is to reach its full potential.
“We hear a lot about the Northern Powerhouse but the truth is unless we can release the locked-up potential then it will never become a reality.
“This scheme could form an important part of that equation not just for the immediate towns involved but much further afield.”
●●Proposals for a rail link to connect Rochdale with Bury and Rossendale