THE campaign for a regular rail link between Rossendale and central Manchester has taken a step forward.

Government-backed body Transport for the North (TfN) has included connecting up Rawtenstall and the city's Metro system in its Central Pennines Study.

This is already looking at re-instating the Colne to Skipton railway line and extending the M65 to Yorkshire in a bid to improve transport links to East Lancashire.

Any new route would integrate with the East Lancashire Heritage Railway which links Rawtenstall, and Ramsbottom with Bury and the Manchester Metro.

The move has been welcomed by Rossendale’s Labour Council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes and the borough's Conservative MP Jake Berry.

Cllr Barnes said: “Rossendale needs a rail link and it’s heartening to see that the government are actively considering putting it into the Transport for the North investment programme.

“We will continue to make the case for a rail link and will continue to lobby government that securing one is vital to this borough’s long term prosperity.”

Northern Powerhouse Minister Mr Berry said, ‘Restoring Rossendale’s rail link is a long term project but this is a huge step forward.

"Anyone who’s sat in the traffic on the M66 knows that we have got to improve our links to Manchester.

" I am delighted that TfN are supporting the need to improve our transport connections to Greater Manchester.

"The restoration of Rossendale’s rail link would go a long way to reducing pressure along the M66 corridor and bring more jobs and investment to Rossendale and wider East Lancashire.’

Chairman of TfN John Cridland said: “The Rossendale Rail Link is currently at the 'options assessment stage' and additional work is required."