Prime Minister signs East Lancashire rail improvements deal

Write away: Gordon Brown puts pen to paper, watched by Coun Colin Rigby

Write away: Gordon Brown puts pen to paper, watched by Coun Colin Rigby

First published in Blackburn Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has today signed an agreement that bosses claim will boost East Lancashire’s economy by £400million and improve the area’s rail links with Manchester.

The Multi Area Agreement, finalised this afternoon in Downing Street, will set improving East Lancashire’s rail links with Manchester at the top of the government’s priorities for the area.

A delegation of council leaders from across the area travelled down to the capital for the signing, and MPs Jack Straw (Blackburn) and Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) were also present.

A request by the Lancashire Telegraph to ask the Prime Minister directly how the deal would benefit East Lancashire people was rejected by his spokesman.

Blackburn with Darwen council leader Colin Rigby, who signed the document alongside the Prime Minister, said: “It was a case of ‘Hello Prime Minister, goodbye Prime Minister’ - but he’s a busy guy.”

Council bosses insist the agreement, which will see town halls across the area bidding for funding under the banner of Pennine Lancashire, will give them more clout and unlock millions of pounds in funding.

Coun Rigby added: “It’s nice to get it signed. It is very important for us to work together.”

As revealed in the Lancashire Telegraph this morning, if the government honours its pledge, vital improvements to rail lines between Clitheroe and Manchester would be carried out in return for local targets being hit.

And the Todmorden Curve would be reinstated, paving the way for direct services between Manchester and Burnley.

Key junctions of the M65 would also be widened, more than 1,000 public-sector jobs would move to the region, and multimillion pound business parks set up.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said the deal, one of the first in the country, would give more power to local councils in the area.

Once the planning, finance and technical hurdles have been overcome the work should be completed by 2014 at the latest, supporters say. An initial report is expected back within six months.

If the government honours its pledge, key junctions of the M65 will be widened, more than 1,000 public-sector jobs will move to the region, and multi-million pound business parks will be set up.

Broadband coverage will be extended throughout the area, and an increase in the number of people studying in higher education is planned in a move council leaders hope will reverse the area’s decline compared to other parts of the country.

But a leading local government expert told the Lancashire Telegraph it was too early to judge the Multi Area Agreement - which has been dubbed a “super council” - and some critics have warned that it could turn out to be a “damp squib”.

Supporters, however, believe the deal marks a watershed for East Lancashire.

The agreement, the product of two years’ painstaking negotiations between the six East Lancashire councils as well as County Hall, will see a new body set up to bid for funding - one of the first such models in the country - meeting in Accrington under the banner of Pennine Lancashire.

The government has promised extra funds in return for town halls signing up to the pilot - and the two rail improvements, which would cost about £8million each, are at the top of its to-do list.

Once started, the engineering work would take about three or four years to complete.

Blackburn with Darwen chief executive Graham Burgess said: “The funding itself has never really been a problem.

"The sticking point has been convincing Network Rail and the government that it’s a priority.”

In March it was revealed Network Rail bosses had rejected an outline business case for the changes, which business leaders say have hindered East Lancashire’s regeneration for years.

But it is thought the government could now make it a condition of future funding packages for Network Rail.

It is hoped the improvements will help create “commuter belts” for people travelling into Manchester, similar to parts of Cheshire.

Investment to cut unemployment is also promised as part of today’s agreement, with a focus on the key aerospace industry.

Leading local government expert Tony Travers, of London School of Economics, said it was too early to say whether the Multi Area Agreement would work for East Lancashire.

He said: “It goes without saying there are gains from local authorities working together, but it’s difficult to judge until they actually exist”.

And while he said the Conservative Party could “sweep away” New Labour’s initiatives if it won the next general election, he insisted if the agreement was solid it should not need government approval.

Blackburn with Darwen Tory council leader Colin Rigby insisted the “historic” agreement would not be merely a talking shop.

He said: “Without this, East Lancashire would die economically.

"Unemployment is up, and education is not great. It’s not been the easiest negotiation in the world, but it’s incredibly important.”

But Pendle Lib Dem district and county councillor David Whipp was not impressed.

He said: “It is a massive damp squib. They are promising they earth and will deliver dust”.

County council leader Hazel Harding, who represents Rossendale North, said: "The agreement sends the message that the councils in Pennine Lancashire are determined and united in our aim to improve people's lives and make the case for more investment."

The deal was also welcomed by Mike Damms, chief executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, and Max Steinberg, whose Housing Market Renewal programme will now fall under the banner of Pennine Lancashire.

Ribble Valley council leader Michael Ranson said: “The agreement will bring together considerable knowledge, skill and expertise in tackling the area’s problems."

Why the improvements are needed

THERE is currently an hourly rail service between Man-chester, Blackburn and Clitheroe, with extra half-hourly trains during peak times.

But because of the poor infrastructure, notably the need for doubling of the track on some stretches between Blackburn and Bolton, more trains cannot be added.

The £8million improvements would also improve signalling and increase platform lengths.

Meanwhile, reinstating the Todmorden Curve link would re-establish a direct rail service between Burnley and Manchester.

Studies have shown this would mean a 38-minute journey from Manchester to Burnley, and 49 minutes to Accrington, benefiting 170,000 people.

The changes are seen as crucial because despite East Lancashire’s close proximity to Manchester, just 2.6 per cent of Burnley residents, and 3.6 per cent of people living in Blackburn, commute into the city.

A number of reports, including last year's by leading thinktank Centre for Cities, have found poor transport links, notably the infrequency of trains to Manchester, to be the main barrier to the area’s growth.

With 90,000 new jobs expected to be created in Greater Manchester in coming years, and increased congestion on the M66, tapping into the rail commuter market is vital.

Video

Watch the government's own video about the deal by clicking Play below.

Comments (18)

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9:38am Mon 12 Jan 09

Merlin The Voice of Reason says...

"But Pendle Lib Dem district and county councillor David Whipp was not impressed.

He said: “It is a massive damp squib. They are promising they earth and will deliver dust”. "

What a disgrace to the Liberal Democrats this man is. Always negative, negative, negative!! He talks down anything with a Lancashire theme. He should either grow up or bow out.

I will say my prayers.


"But Pendle Lib Dem district and county councillor David Whipp was not impressed. He said: “It is a massive damp squib. They are promising they earth and will deliver dust”. " What a disgrace to the Liberal Democrats this man is. Always negative, negative, negative!! He talks down anything with a Lancashire theme. He should either grow up or bow out. I will say my prayers. Merlin The Voice of Reason
  • Score: 0

4:22pm Mon 12 Jan 09

Jonti says...

I agree with LSE's Tony Travers - the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Fingers tightly crossed that bureaucracy will not suffocate the life out of these important schemes!
I agree with LSE's Tony Travers - the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Fingers tightly crossed that bureaucracy will not suffocate the life out of these important schemes! Jonti
  • Score: 0

5:10pm Mon 12 Jan 09

S4L says...

Does that mean that there will be a direct train from Blackburn to Manchester Oxford Road or Manchester Picadilly? It is such a pain facing delays and train cancellations when you have to catch the connection from Bolton or Salford Crescent!
Does that mean that there will be a direct train from Blackburn to Manchester Oxford Road or Manchester Picadilly? It is such a pain facing delays and train cancellations when you have to catch the connection from Bolton or Salford Crescent! S4L
  • Score: 0

5:13pm Mon 12 Jan 09

DaveBurnley says...

So Gordon Brown is supporting it? With his track record that's pretty much the kiss of death for the scheme.
So Gordon Brown is supporting it? With his track record that's pretty much the kiss of death for the scheme. DaveBurnley
  • Score: 0

8:29pm Mon 12 Jan 09

floydbrfc says...

i have travelled quite a bit ,most of western europe a lot of eastern europe alot of travelling of the beaten track not just the usual tourist destinations and i can honestly say i have yet to find a rail system that comes even close to being as bad as the service in east lancs.slow ,unreliable,inadequa
te number of seats at peak times ,dirty and as you stand waiting for this on some wind swept rainy platform in a pathetic excuse for a shelter.no wonder people drive everywhere
i have travelled quite a bit ,most of western europe a lot of eastern europe alot of travelling of the beaten track not just the usual tourist destinations and i can honestly say i have yet to find a rail system that comes even close to being as bad as the service in east lancs.slow ,unreliable,inadequa te number of seats at peak times ,dirty and as you stand waiting for this on some wind swept rainy platform in a pathetic excuse for a shelter.no wonder people drive everywhere floydbrfc
  • Score: 0

3:52am Tue 13 Jan 09

Lance says...

What about the missing link from Colne to Skipton, so that people from Pennine Lancashire can travel to Leeds via Skipton, or for people of North Yorkshire to travel to Manchester. I am sure that this stack up more than puting more money into the M65, the fact remains that roads have never been able to do the job unlike rail, here is an example of that:Capacity per hour per meter width of infrastructure number of passangers:
Car = 200
Bicycle = 750
Bus = 1,500
Pedestrian = 3,600
Busway = 5,200
rail = 9,000
So with the given population of over 60million which is 40 million to many to be sustainable, my choice for investment would be Rail any day of the week if you want the UK economy to thrive, if you don't just go with the road investment, By, By the UK economy and sustainability.
Best regards Lance.
What about the missing link from Colne to Skipton, so that people from Pennine Lancashire can travel to Leeds via Skipton, or for people of North Yorkshire to travel to Manchester. I am sure that this stack up more than puting more money into the M65, the fact remains that roads have never been able to do the job unlike rail, here is an example of that:Capacity per hour per meter width of infrastructure number of passangers: Car = 200 Bicycle = 750 Bus = 1,500 Pedestrian = 3,600 Busway = 5,200 rail = 9,000 So with the given population of over 60million which is 40 million to many to be sustainable, my choice for investment would be Rail any day of the week if you want the UK economy to thrive, if you don't just go with the road investment, By, By the UK economy and sustainability. Best regards Lance. Lance
  • Score: 0

4:19am Tue 13 Jan 09

Lance says...

Todmorden Curve link is a great idear, i did the stat's on the time it would take from Skipton Station once the link from Skipton to colne is re-opened total travel time from Skipton was 1hour 15minutes.
Note: the service to Manchester via Todmorden needs to start at Colne and then reverse direction at Rose-Grove station to go via Burnley Manchester Road to Manchester.
Todmorden Curve link is a great idear, i did the stat's on the time it would take from Skipton Station once the link from Skipton to colne is re-opened total travel time from Skipton was 1hour 15minutes. Note: the service to Manchester via Todmorden needs to start at Colne and then reverse direction at Rose-Grove station to go via Burnley Manchester Road to Manchester. Lance
  • Score: 0

8:57am Tue 13 Jan 09

Kevin, Colne says...

A couple of points.

The way in which the term Pennine Lancashire is gaining traction among the elites, in public policy statements and by public organisations is noteable. The term sounds rather grand - I rather like it - but what saddens me is the likelihood that the real beneficiares will be the corporate identity consultants who will now be engaged at unnecessary public expense to create new logos and strap-lines befitting our new status. Perhaps Pennine Lancashire could then be 'twinned' with Squanderville.

A journey time from Burnley to Manchester of 38-minutes - if it runs, and is punctual - is superior to the car and might even be acceptable for those in Pendle who could avail themsleves of Park and Ride. Whether this condemns the Colne spur to a lonely existence remains to be seen.

Rail transport is superior for bulk transportation over long distances. This, I think, is well accepted but that is not necessarily point-to-point - true origin and destination - and the claim that it is the best form of transport for all transportation is one that I have some doubts about.

I shall resort to the Ken Morrison formula: "When in doubt, have a cup of tea".

I'm off for a brew.

Kevin
A couple of points. The way in which the term Pennine Lancashire is gaining traction among the elites, in public policy statements and by public organisations is noteable. The term sounds rather grand - I rather like it - but what saddens me is the likelihood that the real beneficiares will be the corporate identity consultants who will now be engaged at unnecessary public expense to create new logos and strap-lines befitting our new status. Perhaps Pennine Lancashire could then be 'twinned' with Squanderville. A journey time from Burnley to Manchester of 38-minutes - if it runs, and is punctual - is superior to the car and might even be acceptable for those in Pendle who could avail themsleves of Park and Ride. Whether this condemns the Colne spur to a lonely existence remains to be seen. Rail transport is superior for bulk transportation over long distances. This, I think, is well accepted but that is not necessarily point-to-point - true origin and destination - and the claim that it is the best form of transport for all transportation is one that I have some doubts about. I shall resort to the Ken Morrison formula: "When in doubt, have a cup of tea". I'm off for a brew. Kevin Kevin, Colne
  • Score: 0

10:14am Tue 13 Jan 09

Old Timer says...

Yet another project that has come back out of the political cupboard.
The link via the Todmorden curve is an excellent idea but who will travel on it once the business fraternity have gone to Manchester in the morning and returned at night. Financially it will make a loss and Network Fail know this.
Yet another project that has come back out of the political cupboard. The link via the Todmorden curve is an excellent idea but who will travel on it once the business fraternity have gone to Manchester in the morning and returned at night. Financially it will make a loss and Network Fail know this. Old Timer
  • Score: 0

2:58pm Tue 13 Jan 09

DavidBurnley says...

Kevin, Colne - where did you get the 38 mins from Burnley to Manchester? The figures I saw suggested it would be 'just shy of an hour'. The total distance via Todmorden and Rochdale is about 40-50 miles fo a train would have to go some to do it in 38 minutes?

Also, we have a direct bus service to Manchester that takes less than an hour and there is a bus every few minutes. Also, the return fare on the bus to Manchester is £5.50. Can you see them charging that on a train?

I think it's a pointless scheme that will waste money and make a loss.
Kevin, Colne - where did you get the 38 mins from Burnley to Manchester? The figures I saw suggested it would be 'just shy of an hour'. The total distance via Todmorden and Rochdale is about 40-50 miles fo a train would have to go some to do it in 38 minutes? Also, we have a direct bus service to Manchester that takes less than an hour and there is a bus every few minutes. Also, the return fare on the bus to Manchester is £5.50. Can you see them charging that on a train? I think it's a pointless scheme that will waste money and make a loss. DavidBurnley
  • Score: 0

4:33pm Tue 13 Jan 09

Kevin, Colne says...

Hello DavidBurnley!

I got the 38 minutes from the LT story but as you say to achieve that over the distance involved would require a very high speed in order to obtain an average that produced less than a mile a minute, i.e. above 60mph.

As you rightly point out there is a direct X43 bus and it's one of Blazefield's - who own Burnley and Pendle - premier routes, along with the X36 between Leeds and Ripon, which I believe has extracted traffic from the railways.

The timings for the X43 are variable and peak journeys have a time allocation of about an hour and a half, but this will vary according to the traffic conditions.

Will the railways charge £5.50? No, but if the train is materially quicker than the bus then you can charge a higher price - fare - because people value speed, as in quickness not the drug.

Sorry, what I should have said is that people value convenience very highly, and since transport has negative utility they value the quickest form of travel the highest.

Will it be loss-making? Well, peak transport for the most part is a loss or narrowly profit-making business. Trains and buses are full into Manchester of a morning but empty coming out, and vice-versa at tae time; so you're doomed to be operating at 50% capacity before you've turned a wheel. You have to gear-up for maximum loads but the buses and trains and staff are standing idle in the off-peak period, further weakening asset utilisation.

It's a tricky one.

All the best

Kevin
Hello DavidBurnley! I got the 38 minutes from the LT story but as you say to achieve that over the distance involved would require a very high speed in order to obtain an average that produced less than a mile a minute, i.e. above 60mph. As you rightly point out there is a direct X43 bus and it's one of Blazefield's - who own Burnley and Pendle - premier routes, along with the X36 between Leeds and Ripon, which I believe has extracted traffic from the railways. The timings for the X43 are variable and peak journeys have a time allocation of about an hour and a half, but this will vary according to the traffic conditions. Will the railways charge £5.50? No, but if the train is materially quicker than the bus then you can charge a higher price - fare - because people value speed, as in quickness not the drug. Sorry, what I should have said is that people value convenience very highly, and since transport has negative utility they value the quickest form of travel the highest. Will it be loss-making? Well, peak transport for the most part is a loss or narrowly profit-making business. Trains and buses are full into Manchester of a morning but empty coming out, and vice-versa at tae time; so you're doomed to be operating at 50% capacity before you've turned a wheel. You have to gear-up for maximum loads but the buses and trains and staff are standing idle in the off-peak period, further weakening asset utilisation. It's a tricky one. All the best Kevin Kevin, Colne
  • Score: 0

4:33pm Tue 13 Jan 09

Paul Cockerton says...

DavidBurnley wrote:
Kevin, Colne - where did you get the 38 mins from Burnley to Manchester? The figures I saw suggested it would be 'just shy of an hour'. The total distance via Todmorden and Rochdale is about 40-50 miles fo a train would have to go some to do it in 38 minutes? Also, we have a direct bus service to Manchester that takes less than an hour and there is a bus every few minutes. Also, the return fare on the bus to Manchester is £5.50. Can you see them charging that on a train? I think it's a pointless scheme that will waste money and make a loss.
David - our story states the journey time between Burnley and Manchester would be 38 minutes. Currently, Todmorden to Manchester is 28 minutes.
[quote][p][bold]DavidBurnley[/bold] wrote: Kevin, Colne - where did you get the 38 mins from Burnley to Manchester? The figures I saw suggested it would be 'just shy of an hour'. The total distance via Todmorden and Rochdale is about 40-50 miles fo a train would have to go some to do it in 38 minutes? Also, we have a direct bus service to Manchester that takes less than an hour and there is a bus every few minutes. Also, the return fare on the bus to Manchester is £5.50. Can you see them charging that on a train? I think it's a pointless scheme that will waste money and make a loss.[/p][/quote]David - our story states the journey time between Burnley and Manchester would be 38 minutes. Currently, Todmorden to Manchester is 28 minutes. Paul Cockerton
  • Score: 0

4:33pm Tue 13 Jan 09

Paul Cockerton says...

DavidBurnley wrote:
Kevin, Colne - where did you get the 38 mins from Burnley to Manchester? The figures I saw suggested it would be 'just shy of an hour'. The total distance via Todmorden and Rochdale is about 40-50 miles fo a train would have to go some to do it in 38 minutes? Also, we have a direct bus service to Manchester that takes less than an hour and there is a bus every few minutes. Also, the return fare on the bus to Manchester is £5.50. Can you see them charging that on a train? I think it's a pointless scheme that will waste money and make a loss.
David - our story states the journey time between Burnley and Manchester would be 38 minutes. Currently, Todmorden to Manchester is 28 minutes.
[quote][p][bold]DavidBurnley[/bold] wrote: Kevin, Colne - where did you get the 38 mins from Burnley to Manchester? The figures I saw suggested it would be 'just shy of an hour'. The total distance via Todmorden and Rochdale is about 40-50 miles fo a train would have to go some to do it in 38 minutes? Also, we have a direct bus service to Manchester that takes less than an hour and there is a bus every few minutes. Also, the return fare on the bus to Manchester is £5.50. Can you see them charging that on a train? I think it's a pointless scheme that will waste money and make a loss.[/p][/quote]David - our story states the journey time between Burnley and Manchester would be 38 minutes. Currently, Todmorden to Manchester is 28 minutes. Paul Cockerton
  • Score: 0

7:58pm Tue 13 Jan 09

the pocket rocket says...

I'm loving the whole Pennine Lancashire thing. We've got a lot to be proud of in this area with our amazing countryside and quirky ways. Yes, sure we have our fare share of problem as well so surely joining forces has got to be a good move. I'd love to see more pride.
I'm loving the whole Pennine Lancashire thing. We've got a lot to be proud of in this area with our amazing countryside and quirky ways. Yes, sure we have our fare share of problem as well so surely joining forces has got to be a good move. I'd love to see more pride. the pocket rocket
  • Score: 0

7:23pm Thu 15 Jan 09

Jonti says...

Have any of you actually used the X43 into Manchester? It is a terrible journey - often taking me virtually 2 hours from Burnley to Piccadilly.

LET is quite right on the 38 min journey time via Tod Curve - now that is a good commute time!
Have any of you actually used the X43 into Manchester? It is a terrible journey - often taking me virtually 2 hours from Burnley to Piccadilly. LET is quite right on the 38 min journey time via Tod Curve - now that is a good commute time! Jonti
  • Score: 0

10:18am Fri 16 Jan 09

DaveBurnley says...

Has anyone any idea how much the rail fare will be? It will only work if the fare is competitive, and rail fares are not always that!
Has anyone any idea how much the rail fare will be? It will only work if the fare is competitive, and rail fares are not always that! DaveBurnley
  • Score: 0

10:43am Fri 16 Jan 09

DavidBurnley says...

Paul - if the journey time from Todmorden to Manchester is currently 28 minutes that gives 10 minutes extra to achieve your Burnley to Manchester timing of 38 minutes.

I believe the journey time from manchester Road station to Todmorden is currently scheduled at 14 minutes. If you have the train going into Rosegrove and changing direction out of there to get onto the right line (as has been suggested) and including timings for station stops - I would suggest the 38 minute estimate is not achievable.

Jonti - I regularly use the X43 to Manchester and have never had a journey take longer than 1.20 at peak times. The busses used are comfortable, cheap, frequent and on time. Not something I would say to describe the train services in East Lancashire which seems to be uncomfortable, rarely on time, expensive, often dirty and seem to attract a larger than average share of intimidating passengers.
Paul - if the journey time from Todmorden to Manchester is currently 28 minutes that gives 10 minutes extra to achieve your Burnley to Manchester timing of 38 minutes. I believe the journey time from manchester Road station to Todmorden is currently scheduled at 14 minutes. If you have the train going into Rosegrove and changing direction out of there to get onto the right line (as has been suggested) and including timings for station stops - I would suggest the 38 minute estimate is not achievable. Jonti - I regularly use the X43 to Manchester and have never had a journey take longer than 1.20 at peak times. The busses used are comfortable, cheap, frequent and on time. Not something I would say to describe the train services in East Lancashire which seems to be uncomfortable, rarely on time, expensive, often dirty and seem to attract a larger than average share of intimidating passengers. DavidBurnley
  • Score: 0

3:14pm Fri 16 Jan 09

RAyzer says...

its not worth paper its written on,russia have a better rail system at 1/5 of price of ours,thats before the oil boom too,pure greed here,the fat cats know that youve no choice but to pay a extortinate fee to travel..what happened to governments ditch your car use public transport programme???its cheaper and quicker to go by car....make it same for rail/bus
its not worth paper its written on,russia have a better rail system at 1/5 of price of ours,thats before the oil boom too,pure greed here,the fat cats know that youve no choice but to pay a extortinate fee to travel..what happened to governments ditch your car use public transport programme???its cheaper and quicker to go by car....make it same for rail/bus RAyzer
  • Score: 0
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