Plans for new rail link between Rawtenstall and Greater Manchester via Bury and Heywood are submitted

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The proposed scheme would see a passenger rail service from Rawtenstall via Ramsbottom, Bury and Heywood into Manchester Victoria.

The blueprint for a proposed new rail link between East Lancashire and Manchester has been sent to ministers.

The business case for the new line from Rawtenstall to the city has been submitted to the Department for Transport.

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But the chairman of the East Lancashire Railway Mike Kelly has reiterated his opposition warning that the scheme could lead to the closure of the heritage line,

Rail consultants Systra, appointed by Rossendale Council and Lancashire County Council to produce the report, are confident the options suggested provide a strong economic case for the new rail link.

Rossendale suffers from high levels of road congestion especially travelling into Greater Manchester.

Its council leader Alyson Barnes 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.

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

A key part of the business case’s brief was to ensure that the existing ELR heritage services can continue to operate alongside any regular passenger service, and that traditional features including stations and signalling systems would also be maintained.

The proposed scheme would see a passenger rail service from Rawtenstall via Ramsbottom, Bury and Heywood into Manchester Victoria.

It plans a 44-minute journey from Rawtenstall to Manchester.

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Coun Charlie Edwards, Lancashire County Council’s transport boss, said: “We fully support the new rail link.

“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.”

A funding bid has now been submitted to the government with a decision expected in the Spring.

Mr Kelly, said: “While we understand the desire for greater connectivity between Rossendale and Manchester, imposing a commuter service to run on a heritage rail infrastructure is not sustainable economically or operationally.

“We believe the development would, at best threaten the efficient and effective operations of, and at worst force the complete closure of, the heritage railway line.”

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