THE new £8.8million rail service from Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley to Manchester will be delayed by at least six months because of a lack of trains, the Lancashire Telegraph can reveal.

Town hall leaders are bitterly disappointed that a proposed hourly commuter link between East Lancashire and the city, set to launch next May, has hit the buffers over a lack of rolling stock.

And they have pledged to lobby hard to ensure the route is up and running by Christmas 2014.

Hyndburn MP Miles Parkinson said it was a blow and the campaign to would continue.

Work has started on reinstating the Todmorden Curve, the 500-yard switchback line which will enable trains to reach Manchester via the Caldervale Line.

And the construction of a new Burnley Manchester Road station, on the site of a former dairy, is already under way.

Early next month will also see the line temporarily closed between Burnley and Hebden Bridge for repairs to Holme Tunnel at Cliviger, to accomodate the increased traffic.

But a shortage of spare diesel units nationally has been blamed by Northern Rail for the postponment of the planned introduction of the new service which also calls at Blackburn and Accrington.

Coun Julie Cooper, leader of Burnley Council, said the service was a vital component in the borough’s regeneration plans.

She added: “We’re very disappointed by this delay in delivering the top-class direct rail service to and from Manchester our residents deserve.

“The council and our partners have delivered our part of the bargain. We’ve achieved funding for this essential project and the infrastructure, including the new Todmorden Curve, will be in place, all ready for the trains to run.

“Unfortunately the rail industry has been unable to find a single train across the whole of the country’s rail network to run the service in May 2014 as planned and we will have to wait for other lines to be electrified by December 2014.

“I share people’s frustration at the potentially ridiculous situation of having the track in place but no trains to run on it for six months.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he had been promised by Northern Rail that sufficient rolling stock would be available by next year.

“This is something I will definitely be taking up with Northern Rail,” he said.

Coun Parkinson said: “It is a blow because we fought hard in East Lancashire for the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve.

“It is a delay, and that is regrettable, but the important thing is the infrastructure will be there and we will be campaigning to make sure we can overcome this.”

A Northern Rail spokesman said the current Manchester Victoria to Rochdale service would be extended to Todmorden from next May but the Manchester-Burnley-Blackburn leg would be introduced when spare diesel trains became available.

He added: “Although there are no spare trains on the market at the moment, the introduction of electric trains onto newly-electrified routes in the North West towards the end of 2014 and into 2015 will release some diesel trains.

“We are currently working with the Department for Transport on options for obtaining the trains required to operate the Manchester-Burnley-Blackburn services via the Todmorden Curve.”