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Lancashire to Manchester Rail Link is Vital to Sustainable Growth

3 min

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A business case promoting a rail link to Manchester has been submitted to the Department for Transport by Systra. Quadrant Transport explores how this potential rail link could benefit not only the transport sector but the travelling public.

Systra was appointed by Rossendale Council and Lancashire County Council to produce a report on improving connectivity and exploring potential solutions.

Rossendale is the only local authority area in Lancashire without a rail link at present and Systra has said it is confident that the options suggested provide a strong economic case for a new rail link. The link is intended to deliver benefits to residents across Rossendale, Ramsbottom, Bury and Heywood.

It Is Essential That East Lancashire Railway Heritage Services Are Maintained

Councillor Alyson Barnes, the leader of Rossendale Council, said: “The rail link is vital to our continued sustainable growth which is why we as a council have driven this forward over a number of years – hopefully we are now seeing the fruits of this strategy.”

We are the only borough in Lancashire without a rail link and we cannot afford to miss out any longer.

In May and June, a local survey was held which revealed 86 per cent of support for the project. A key part of the brief was to ensure that the existing East Lancashire Railway heritage services can continue to operate alongside any regular passenger service and that traditional features including stations and signalling systems would also be maintained.

New Opportunities For Employment Will Be Created Through The Rail Link

The scheme will see a passenger rail service from Rawtenstall via Ramsbottom, Bury and Heywood into Manchester Victoria. It could potentially be a 44-minute journey from Rawtenstall to Manchester in total.

County Councillor Charlie Edwards, Lancashire County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We fully support the new rail link. Rossendale’s natural geography is one of its greatest features but also places constraints on what is viable and affordable in terms of creating better transport links.

“There is a limit to the amount of traffic which the valley roads can cope with, and the creation of a regular rail service to Manchester has great potential to ensure our residents can access new opportunities for employment, education and leisure.”

There is clearly a worthwhile case for the rail link and, with the strong local support for this scheme from MPs, councils and residents, I look forward to it continuing to make good progress.

A Decision Is Hoped To Be Made In Spring 2023

Different options are still on the table, with the preferred option seeing a journey from Rawtenstall to a new Bury Market Street Station with a pedestrian link to Bury Interchange for connections to Manchester.

This option avoids impact at Buckley Wells where the East Lancashire Railway has plans to develop an engine shed that would deliver a journey of around 56 minutes.

Continuing from Bury via Heywood and the Calder Valley Line, the route would deliver a faster total journey time of just 44 minutes and would not require an interchange. However, it would require a new station at Heywood to cope with the forecasted demand.

A funding bid has now been submitted to the UK Government with Rossendale Borough Council and Lancashire County Council hoping for a decision in Spring 2023.