ELECTRIFICATION of the local rail network should be one of the next major priorities for the industry, say campaigners in East Lancashire.

Network Rail has announced that £38billion will be invested in rail infrastructure over the next five years, including new tracks and upgraded stations and lines.

It will lead to 700 more trains between the likes of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford and could provide a direct service from East Lancashire to Manchester Airport when a new link between the city’s Victoria and Piccadilly stations is completed.

Now supporters of the East Lancashire Transport Masterplan are hoping that, in the longer term, new electrified lines will be introduced between Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley and Tod- morden, and that even the spur from Rosegrove to Colne may be considered.

Speaking before the masterplan launch, Coun Maureen Bateson, Blackburn regeneration executive member, said: “Residents and businesses should enjoy the benefits of good rail connections – benefits which other towns take for granted.”

Around £2million is being spent on improving the rail network in East Lancashire, including a passing loop to allow more frequent services between Blackburn and Manchester, the reinstatement of Todmorden Curve and the new Burnley Manchester Road station.

Work has also just been completed on the Holme Tunnel, near Cliviger, to allow for faster running speeds for Lancashire to Yorkshire services running through Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley.

Rail bosses have admitted that a ‘huge growth’ in passenger numbers over the past five years has led to issues with the punctuality of services, resulting in the need for great investment.