RADICAL proposals for a superfast rail link between Manchester and Leeds unveiled yesterday must include major upgrades of services to East Lancashire, local MPs have demanded.

Jack Straw, Gordon Birtwistle and Andrew Stephenson want elec-trification of the routes from Manchester to Blackburn and Clitheroe and from Preston to Burnley as part of the package.


Prime Minister David Cameron last night gave his stamp of approval to the plans for a high-speed ‘HS3’ rail link in the north.

They were published in a report by HS2 boss Sir David Higgins, in charge of the scheme for a superfast rail link from London to Birmingham and then on to Manchester Leeds.

Sir David said better rail links in northern England were ‘desirable’ to maximise the benefits of HS2.

The government said it had looked at options, costs and timetable for HS3.

Mr Cameron said improving connect-ivity and reducing journey times was ‘crucial’ to the long-term economic future of the north of England.

Mr Cameron added the ‘big flaw’ of the original HS2 plans was the lack of east-west connections.

Blackburn Labour MP Mr Straw said: “This is absolutely the right thing to do.

“With it, we need much better connec-tions to East Lancashire.

“They include electrification of the Manchester to Clitheroe and Preston to Burnley lines and rolling stock for the reopened Todmorden Curve, as well as reopening the heritage line through Rossendale to commercial passengers.

“We need these steps fast.”

Pendle Tory Mr Stephenson said: “This is a great idea.

“It must go hand in hand with proposals to link in East Lanc-ashire.“They include electrifying the Manchester/Blackburn/Clitheroe line, the electrification of the East Lancashire line from Preston to Colne and its extension to Skipton.”

Burnley Liberal Democrat Mr Birtwistle said: “We must connect Burnley and East Lancashire with fast services to the his new link and HS2 in Manchester.

“I shall be lobbying transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin on this issue.”

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mike Damms said: “Un-doubtedly investment in the infrastructure of the North of England like this plan is good for the region and the economy.

“For transport to move around the UK you have to have strong connections and we need upgraded, electrifier rail links from East Lancashire to Manchester to make this work for us and the reopening of the rail line between Ross-endale and Man-chester.”