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£35m boost for East Lancashire rail and road links
RAIL and motorway-standard road links for Blackburn, Darwen, Burnley, and Colne will be the priority of a new county-wide transport body with £35 million to spend.
Upgrading the train service from Clitheroe to Manchester, easing the traffic bottleneck at the Colne end of the M65 and improving the route from the M66 to Burnley will be key aims of the new organisation, Transport for Lancashire.
Lancashire county council, Blackburn with Darwen borough and Blackpool have joined forces to create the umbrella authority with a £35 million budget over four years.
With a set-up budget of £130,000 and the rest handed over from Whitehall from 2015/2016, its new bosses have high hopes for easing the journey for travellers into the East of the county.
Lancashire county transport chief Tim Ashton said: “We’ve got £35 million over four years to spend. It could be new roads, it could be new rail links.
“A key project is upgrading the rail line from Clitheroe through Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton to Manchester for a regular half-hourly service.
“We shall also be looking at easing the traffic bottleneck from the M65 at Colne and improving the road journey across the Pennines to Leeds.
“We will look at the relative merits of a new commercial service on the heritage East Lancashire Railway between Rawtenstall and Bury and upgrading the A56 from the M66 to the M65. There are real opportunities for better road and rail links to open up East Lancashire for economic growth.”
His Blackburn with Darwen opposite number Dave Harling said: “Our number one transport priority is the improved rail link between Clitheroe and Manchester.
“The scheme is ready to go and we can complete it by December 2015. The improved rail link will improve our local economy and the lives of our residents.
“People living here will have the opportunity to access jobs in Manchester. People currently working in the city could live in our towns and still commute to work.”
Borough leader Kate Hollern said: “The Clitheroe-Manchester line is our top priority for TFL opening up better rail travel not just for Blackburn and Darwen but Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Colne as well.”