RAIL bosses have provided £310,000 to bring a half-hourly train service between Clitheroe, Blackburn and Manchester a step closer.

They have matched the contribution from local councils to pay for the latest feasibility study to upgrade the line by the end of 2016.

Network Rail chief executive Sir David Higgins has written to Blackburn MP Jack Straw promising the cash for the study into the best way to double the full track between Blackburn and Bolton and upgrade signalling and bridges before bringing in a regular half-hourly service.

Today, his officials were due to meet with Mr Straw and Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry to discuss progress on the programme.

Both MPs and leading East Lancashire Liberal Democrat and rail campaigner Lord Greaves welcome the latest move.

Blackburn with Darwen borough and Lancashire county councils had pledged £310,000 to the study.

Sir David said: “We are prepared to match the local authorities’ costs of this next stage with a £310,000 contribution.”

He also said when his officials meet the MPs they will discuss the detail of how Network Rail plans to ‘accelerate the programme for the works’.

Mr Straw said: “This is very welcome news. It is a step forward in the process of getting the upgrade and half-hourly service.”

Mr Berry said: “I am very pleased at this news. It is further progress on a major improvement in rail links to Darwen, Blackburn, Clitheroe and Manchester.”

Pendle Peer Lord Greaves said: “This is good news for all of East Lancashire. Taken with the Todmorden Curve improvements, the Burnley Manchester Road work and hopefully the reinstatement of the Colne to Skipton line, it is a key part of rail upgrading.”