AN AMBITIOUS project has been launched to get thousands of extra passengers on trains.

The ‘Great North Rail Project’ aims to provide carriage space for an additional 40,000 people in Lancashire and across the north at peak times.

It will see trains across the north refurbished, stations improved and more services and electrifications.

Others improvements will include a new ‘Northern Connect’ service, meaning new or refurbished trains on longer-distance services, faster journeys and station staff daily with catering services and free Wi-Fi on each.

The network will serve destinations including Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley.

The project is part of a £50bn national investment in railways, which aims to deliver 5,700 new carriages on track by 2021 and 6,400 additional services per week. securing almost £85bn of extra economic benefits to the country and creating thousands of new jobs.

And the ‘Great North Rail Project’ has seen all of Lancashire’s train companies (including Northern) and Network Rail come together to launch the plan for its railways.

Richard Watts, chairman of Accrington-based Community Rail Lancashire Ltd, said the rail industry has never been closer to the communities it serves and that the partnership will provide a firm base for yet more ‘existing developments’.

He said: “The rail network provides vital links from the communities of Lancashire into the regional centres of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Preston.

The investment-led changes across the north will see new and refurbished trains, improved stations, more services and electrification.

“Yet central to all of this is the role of the community and often the locally-based community rail partnership (CRP).

“Considerable investment in local rail services is the result of the vision and enthusiasm of local communities supported by their local authority and CRP.

“The extended Darwen Loop and reinstated Todmorden Curve have been the harbingers of new or improved services providing better links to the regional centre of Manchester."

David Brown, managing director at Northern said: “The railway is key to Lancashire’s long-term prosperity.

"As our industry comes together with a single plan to drive change, we are investing to improve what matters most to our customers and the regional economy.

"We will deliver more capacity, improved services, faster journeys and a better customer experience that will better connect northerners with jobs, social and leisure opportunities.”