Improved rail services between Blackburn and Manchester moved a step closer as local politicians lent their support to an agreement between Network Rail and Blackburn with Darwen Council to build a new section of track to accommodate more trains on the route.
If approved the £13.35m project, funded by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and delivered by Network Rail, will see the construction of two miles of new railway at Darwen. The new section will allow an additional off peak service to run each hour between Blackburn and Manchester. Design works are well under way and subject to funding confirmation construction work could start in summer 2015 with the first additional services running from December 2016.
Pledging their support to the proposals, the leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Councillor Kate Hollern, Blackburn MP Jack Straw, Darwen and Rossendale MP Jake Berry, signed an agreement during a special ceremony at Blackburn Town Hall. Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans has also expressed his support for the scheme.
Ian Joslin, area director for Network Rail, said: “The railway continues to go from strength to strength with record passenger numbers and record investment. Across the north we are already delivering more than £1bn worth of improvements to provide a better service and support and boost the economy. We look forward to working with Blackburn with Darwen Council to deliver improved links to Manchester and the wider rail network”
Council leader Kate Hollern said: “This agreement is the culmination of years of planning and negotiations between the council, Network Rail and partners and I’m delighted we have now reached this position. This is an important step towards dramatically improving connectivity between Pennine Lancashire and Greater Manchester, opening up opportunities for investment in the area as we become more accessible for people working in Manchester.”
Jack Straw MP for Blackburn said: “It’s a brilliant day for East Lancashire rail users and gives me great satisfaction because it’s the culmination of eight years campaigning to get this investment. East Lancashire’s future critically depends on better connectivity with Manchester.”