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.

 ?? ?? ●●Scribbler belives the East Lancashire Railway could be the key to restoring mainline train services (inset) to Rossendale
●●Scribbler belives the East Lancashire Railway could be the key to restoring mainline train services (inset) to Rossendale

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