NEW figures showing an increase of 250,000 rail passengers on the Clitheroe to Manchester line have given further weight to a campaign to improve the line as soon as possible, according to an East Lancashire MP.

Figures released by the Lancashire Community Rail Partnership show the number of line users rose from 1.65million in 2010/11 to just shy of 1.9million last year, a rise of 20 per cent.

The line, which provides a vital commuter link to Manchester for people living in Darwen and Blackburn, is pencilled in for £20million of improvements to increase its capacity.

Work scheduled to be completed by 2016 does not involve doubling the line, but is intended to provide a half-hourly service.

Darwen and Rossendale MP Jake Berry said: “Jack Straw and I recently met with Rail Track in London who confirmed the line should have completed works done to it by the middle of 2016.

“We are pushing to get it done as soon as possible as it is a vital link from Darwen to Manchester.

“I want to welcome people to Darwen as it is a nice place to live and these rail links can help promote growth in the town.”

Darwen town councillor Simon Huggill last week called for the reopening Spring Vale station, close to Grimshaw Street and behind Sough Road in the town.

He said the figures backed his claim that the station, closed in 1958, should come back into use.

He said: “Increased patronage just proves we need some more stations.

“It took me three and a half hours to get back from Manchester in my car recently as the motorway was packed.

“If there were more convenient railway stations for people to use it may convince them to leave the car at home.”