EAST Lancashire’s two key rail routes could be electrified within the next decade.

Work on the line from Preston through Blackburn to Burnley Manchester Road and Halifax and the Clitheroe to Bolton track could see new high speed trains replacing many diesel services by 2024.

The recommendations made yesterday in a report to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin by the independent Electrification Task Force have been hailed as a major step forward by MPs of all parties.

The body – drawn from MPs, Rail North industry bosses and council chiefs – said 12 lines should be included in the programme for wiring up trains between 2019 and 2014.

The line from Preston through Blackburn and Accrington which forms part of the Calder Valley Line, peels off between Rose Grove and Burnley Manchester Road stations to Hebden Bridge and Halifax along the reinstated Copy Pit route is top of the list.

The Bolton to Clitheroe via Blackburn and Darwen line is also recommended for the upgrade completing the current electrification of the route from Manchester.

This £20 million scheme, which sees the full dualling of track and doubling the Sough and Farnworth Tunnels, will bring all-day half-hourly services by December next year.

The task force report is a major step forward and the first time a timetable has been suggested for the electrification of either line.

It will bring new rolling stock, faster trains, track and signalling improvements and station upgrades if it secures the necessary multi-million pound funding and green light from the government.

Blackburn Labour MP Jack Straw said: “This is a significant step forward.

“It is the first time a timescale has ever been put on electrifying these two key lines for East Lancashire.

“We now have to make sure it goes ahead.

“It is the natural extension of the electrification of the Ribble Valley line to Bolton and would produce real improvements to services and rolling stock on the East Lancashire Line.”

His Burnley Liberal Democrat counterpart Gordon Birtwistle said: “This is really great news.

“It would electrify services from Preston through the middle of Burnley to Halifax.”