Fresh calls for Metrolink to be extended to all the way to East Lancashire with challenge laid out

There's big support for the plan but plenty of hurdles to overcome.
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Metrolink trams might one day run to Rossendale if neighbouring councils can collaborate, according to the area's MP.

Potential train or tram links between Rossendale and Manchester have been discussed in the past year or two at council meetings. The leisure-focused East Lancashire Railway could potentially be enhanced with new light rail commuter trains added, some ideas have suggested. But there are a range of views and challenges, according to Jake Berry MP.

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Conservative Mr Berry said: “My view is the [Metrolink] tram should be extended. The challenge is Bury Council and Greater Manchester need to support it.

Calls are being made to extend the Metrolink as far as RossendaleCalls are being made to extend the Metrolink as far as Rossendale
Calls are being made to extend the Metrolink as far as Rossendale

"The majority of track passes through other boroughs. We need to continue lobbying the network and speaking to other boroughs and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has access to considerable cash. It’s not a lack of funding that prevents it. It’s more a lack of a local coalition to support it.

“It’s a challenge I’d put on Labour councillors in Rossendale, to bring-on their Labour colleagues from Greater Manchester and make them part of the ambition. The appropriate thing is for local authorities to make alliances. Bury Council is not going to do what I tell them.”

The extension of the Metrolink network is an ongoing debate in many areas of Greater Manchester, most notably to the south of the city to Stockport and north to Middleton, Heywood, Bolton, and the Atom Valley business site. Andy Burnham said a decision on the expansion of the tram system is expected to be made this summer.

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Back in 2022, 86 per cent of people who completed a Rossendale Council survey backed calls to reinstate the Rawtenstall to Manchester train corridor. It was said it would offer journey times of 44 minutes from the Valley into the city centre. The original Rawtenstall, Ramsbottom to Bury line closed to passengers in 1972 and to freight in 1980.

Options mentioned two years ago included an integrated train shuttle service connecting with Metrolink trams in Bury or a direct train to Manchester Victoria via Heywood. Both would create stations at Rawtenstall, Ewood Bridge (with a park and ride for Haslingden), Stubbins, Ramsbottom and Bury. The East Lancashire Railway however raised concerns given how it could impact the popular heritage line.

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