United front in fight for rail link
‘Line is feasible and cost effective’- report 9,000 could use reinstated train track MP: Manchester mayor’s backing now key
ACOMMUTER rail link between Rossendale and Manchester could be on track after a study found the route was ‘ feasible and cost effective’.
Rossendale council leader Coun Alyson Barnes and officers, along with MPs and business leaders from across the rail route, met with Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry in London to update him on the findings of the early strategic case for rail investment.
They also lobbied Transport for the North ( TfN) to get the link included in its forthcoming Investment Programme as a ‘high priority’.
Rossendale is the only borough in Lancashire without a national rail link and struggles with severe congestion on the A56 and M66 at peak times.
The report found that 14,000 Rossendale residents travel daily to work, with 9,000 going into the Greater Manchester area.
Five options were examined and evaluated, but Coun Barnes stressed she wanted to see a commuter route working in conjunction with the existing heritage East Lancashire Railway.
The report was commissioned by Rossendale Council in partnership with Lancashire County Council and was carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research. It 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. Passengers would then have access to Manchester, Rochdale and West Yorkshire.
The report concludes: “Overall, we believe this work indicates that feasible options exist for investment which could deliver significant eco- nomic benefits, reduce congestion, and meet environmental targets in a way which will not harm the valuable operations of the East Lancashire Railway, and may even be to their benefit.”
Coun Barnes said: “The East Lancashire Railway is an incredible success story, bringing visitors and tourism into the Rossendale economy and we do not want to lose it.
“However, the current commuter network between Rossendale and Manchester is not.
“At peak periods both car drivers and bus passengers find themselves in nose to tail traffic on the A56, M66 and in the city centre, and there is no potential to ease that situation.
“We want to see the rail link treated as a high priority scheme in the forthcoming TfN Investment Programme 2020- 50.”
The original Rawtenstall railway station closed in 1972 and the East Lancashire Railway extended its heritage line from Bury to Rawtenstall when it opened a new station in 1991.
A delegation visited Parliament to win support
●● Bosses at Westminster Bridge fighting for a rail link
One of the options for a proposed Rossendale rail link