AN AMBITIOUS £9million bid has been lodged to finally provide a direct rail link between Burnley and Manchester.
Council bosses want cash from the Government’s regional growth fund (RGF) to reinstate the Todmorden Curve after 40 years.
The line would mean 40-minute journeys from Burnley into the heart of the city.
Bosses also plan to use almost £2million of the money to help prepare for the long-awaited £100million regeneration of the Weavers’ Triangle area.
And separately, a renovation of Manchester Road station, which would be used by Manchester-bound commuters, is also in the pipeline. The RGF proposals, lodged yesterday with the Government, have been hailed as the biggest development yet in the long-running campaign to reinstate the Todmorden Curve, a 500-metre section of track that would be brought back into use.
The plans, which could see Burnley to Manchester trains running in 2013, were also backed by MP Gordon Birtwistle.
He said: “This is a very clever bid because it links the Todmorden Curve and the Weavers’ Triangle to job creation, which is what the Government is looking for.
“I speak to companies all the time who say they would move to Burnley if there was a direct rail link to Manchester.
“I think in two years’ time we will see that finally happen.”
Burnley Council has led the bid, which also has support from Lancashire County Council, Network Rail and newly-appointed Weavers’ Triangle developer Barnfield.
Bosses have asked for £8.8million, of which £7million would be used to lay down new track where the curve is and make alterations at Todmorden railway station, including changes to signalling.
The remaining £1.8million would go on highways improvements in Trafalgar Street, in the heart of the Weavers’ Triangle, and on new lighting and landscaping nearby.
The bid predicts about 500 jobs would be created by the rail work and Weavers’ Triangle improvements, with potentially hundreds more people heading into Manchester from Burnley for better-paid jobs.
Mike Cook, Burnley Council’s regeneration director, said: “This is a proper bid. It is certainly the biggest development there has been as far as the Todmorden Curve goes.”
Mr Cook would not be drawn on the odds of Burnley’s bid securing almost £9million of the £950million the Government has made available in the second round of RGF bidding.
However, a senior source said the town hall was ‘optimistic’ of success.
Separately, the council also plans an overhaul of Manchester Road station before 2013, with a new ticket office, platform shelters and increased car parking.
Network Rail said it was ‘advising’ Burnley and Lancashire County councils on the Todmorden Curve and that it was a ‘priority’ scheme.
Spokesman Keith Lumley said it was hoped the Burnley to Manchester route would be on the timetables by December 2013, with engineering work taking place the previous summer.
He said: “It seems to be getting there. If the council secures the funding from the Government then the Todmorden Curve is a goer.”
A Lancashire County Council spokesman said the Todmorden Curve remained its ‘top priority’ rail scheme and Northern Rail said it was fully supportive of the scheme.
Barnfield said were unavailable for comment yesterday ((FRI)).
A spokeswoman in the Government’s business department said RGF bidders would probably find out in October if their application for cash had been approved.
Asked about the Burnley scheme’s chances of success, she said: “There’s a larger amount of money available in this round than last time.”
Barnfield is expected to begin work on the Weavers’ Triangle later this year with a ‘mixed-use’ development planned.