EAST Lancashire’s £20 million rail revolution promising jobs, investment and rising house prices today gets its final green light.
The crucial paperwork to upgrade the vital link between Blackburn, Darwen, Clitheroe and Manchester will be signed and sealed.
Now campaigning politicians want the whole line electrified and work started on a phased improvement of the Preston to Colne East Lancashire Line.
Network rail bosses, Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Kate Hollern and MPs Jack Straw, Jake Berry and Nigel Evans will be present at a lunchtime ceremony to give the official go-ahead.
Construction starts next May with all-day every 30-minute services introduced in December 2016.
The signing ends an eight-year campaign to win half-hourly trains, a crucial cog in plans to boost the economic development of East Lancashire.
Before the signing at Blackburn Town Hall, politicians hailed a deal to bring investment across East Lancashire and see high-paid professionals choosing to live in the area and commute to work in Manchester.
The upgrade will prepare the line from Bolton to Clitheroe for future electrification.
The scheme will speed trains from Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley Manchester Road to the nearby city and upgrade Entwistle, Clitheroe, Whalley, Ramsgreave and Wilpshire and Langho stations. It will dual the whole line from Clitheroe, Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton to Manchester bringing 14 extra trains a day, extending the rush hour half-hourly service to all day.
Track will be doubled in the single-line Sough Tunnel south of Darwen and Farnworth Tunnel in Bolton.
Blackburn MP Mr Straw said: “This is the culmination of eight years work. It will help bring investment and jobs and make it possible for highly-paid workers in Manchester live in our beautiful countryside and commute, hopefully increasing house prices.
“Now we start work on the electrification of the line from Bolton to Clitheroe, replacing the Pacer trains on the Preston/ Blackburn/Colne line, upgrading the track, dualling it beyond Burnley and extending it to Skipton. ”
Rossendale and Darwen MP Mr Berry said: “This is a major investment for our community, a big boost to local businesses which will relieve congestion on our roads.”
Blackburn with Darwen regeneration boss Maureen Bateson said: “This gives people more access to jobs, making the borough a more accessible place to work and invest in.”
Network Rail area director Ian Joslin: “We look forward to delivering better links to Manchester and the rest of the rail network”
Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “This is a great day for the whole of our area. Now we need similar improvements to the main East Lancashire line to Burnley and Pendle.”