Rossendale Free Press
Heritage team could help get rail plan back on track
FOR a short while, it all seemed so optimistic. The Government offered £50,000 to support further investigation into the reopening of a railway service into Rossendale.
By good fortune, the council had a presentation ready to go to councillors on what that service could look like: Commuter services along the East Lancashire Railway using refurbished London Underground trains, linking commuters to Manchester via the Metrolink at Bury.
After years of being knocked back by organisations saying that getting regular trains from Rawtenstall would never pay for itself, was this to be the moment of breakthrough?
Alas, it took just days for hopes to be dashed.
The current operators of the East Lancashire Railway – as we know, at present a heritage railway line – raised serious objections to the scheme, arguing it would essentially mean the end of the steam railway tourist attraction as we know it.
It’s hard to know where to go from here.
On one hand, there’s political consensus that a railway service from Rawtenstall to Manchester, albeit involving a change at Bury, would be good for the borough.
Not only would it ease congestion on the M66, it would also make it easier for people to come into the borough for work.
On the other hand, the East Lancashire Railway deserves to be heard.
After all, were it not for their hard work over many years, it’s highly
likely that the railway track which makes this new scheme possible would have been ripped up a long time ago and the land maybe developed on.
It seems there are two choices.
Either the area gives up on the regular railway dream and focuses efforts elsewhere to improve connectivity – improvements to roads, for example, or dedicated bus lanes into Manchester – or the East Lancashire Railway be forced to come to the table.
The latter seems more likely given that, according to Bury Council’s website, the East Lancs Railway Trust, which sets the plans for the East Lancs Railway, includes local councils as its members.
Indeed, Bury Council states: “The local authorities are the land owners while the East Lancs Light Railway Co is the operating company that leases land and property, runs train services and railway events.” The ELR, for its part, when defending its opposition to regular
commuter services, points to the valuable economic benefits the ELR provides.
While true, it must also be the case that Bury benefits far more than our end of the line.
Even after Rossendale Council supported expensive improvements to Rawtenstall Station, so much of the ELR’s acitvity is focused on getting people to start and end their journey in Bury, merely viewing Rossendale from a vintage train carriage.
It could be so much more and the ELR could
play a much bigger part in making Rawtenstall, and the wider Valley, better visited by those using the railways. Encouraging more people to begin their journey at our end of the line would be a start.
It must be utterly frustrating for Rossendale Council to be such fierce proponents of a regular rail service, only to have the organisation they provide so much support for – the ELR – to all but stop their plans in their tracks. Whose tracks though?
Something needs to give.