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Blackburn to Manchester link set to get massive improvements
THE vital rail link between Blackburn, Clitheroe and Manchester looks set to be revolutionised ending a massive campaign which has gone on for years.
The millions of pounds needed to finance the long-awaited upgrade will be confirmed next week.
Campaigners were euphoric over the move which will see services increase from hourly to every 30 minutes.
The huge improvement is seen as a crucial cog in the economic development of East Lancashire.
Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “This is great news. I have been campaigning for this for eight years and I am delighted that this vital project will finally get the money needed.
“This link to Manchester is vital for the economy and people of Blackburn, Darwen and the Ribble Valley. Many commute to work in the city”
And Regenerate Pennine Lancashire chairman Denis Mendoros said: “This is excellent news. It will bring Manchester closer to Blackburn and East Lancashire for both businesses and commuters. Improving connectivity with this type of transport project is vital for the economic growth of the area.”
The cash for the crucial scheme was included in the agreements signed as part of the Preston City Deal in Downing Street yesterday (WED).
As part of the package agreed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the budget for the new Transport for Lancashire (TFL) umbrella body for the county has been increased from £35 million over four years to £107 million over ten.
This means that a meeting next week can give the green light for the £20 million project to improve the Clitheroe to Manchester line, via Blackburn and Bolton.
It will ensure the track will be double for its full length between Blackburn and Bolton, with the single-line Sough Tunnel south of Darwen upgraded.
Signalling and bridges will also be improved as part of the scheme.
The meeting will also confirm the cash allocations for the £3 million improvement for the Haslingden Road corridor out of Blackburn to Junction Five of the M65 at Guide and the £3 million structural maintenance and repair project for the Centenary Way Viaduct in Burnley.
The good news was confirmed to the Lancashire Telegraph last night by Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, of which TFL is a sub-committee.
He said: “The City Deal is great news for the whole of Lancashire.
"It also guarantees £107m of transport funding over that period. Significant schemes in the east of Lancashire, including improvements to the Clitheroe–Blackburn-Manchester rail line, the Haslingden Road corridor in Blackburn and the Centenary Way viaduct in Burnley will now be able to be brought forwards.
"Transport for Lancashire will shortly formally announce its major priorities for the whole of the county."
The only hurdle now to be passed is the special GRIP study into the scheme’s viability, scheduled for completion in time for the improvements to start in May 2015.
The scheme already has the backing of national track authority Network Rail and transport minister Simon Burns Blackburn with Darwen borough had earmarked £2 million for its contribution to the final scheme. The rest will be a joint-contribution from Lancashire County Council and the Department for Transport in London.
Blackburn with Darwen transport boss Maureen Bateson said: “This is good news.
“I am now very hopeful this crucial scheme will have the £18 million is needs from TFL confirmed finally next week so it can become a reality.
“This rail upgrade will be a major boost for the economy, tourism and commuters in Blackburn with Darwen and the whole of East Lancashire. It will bring Manchester a lot closer for train passengers”
Darwen MP Jake Berry said: “This is good news.
“It is a vital link for businesses and people who commute to work from Darwen to Manchester.
“I am glad the work Jack Straw and I have done in the last three years has paid off. It is just one of a group of vital transport projects this government is supporting in East Lancashire.”
Stephen Martin, president of Save the East Lancashire Line (STELLA), said: “This is excellent news.
“The GRIP study is to ensure that the project is viable, value for money and can be delivered on time and on budget.
“So much work has been done over the years on this scheme that it should be a formality.”
Hyndburn council leader Miles Parkinson said: “This much-needed tranpsort investment will be a boost the borough in terms of enabling people to live here and commute to Manchester and in attracting businesses out of high-cost city premises to the East Lancashire corridor.”
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