THE East Lancashire railway line from Preston to Colne would be upgraded and extended across the Pennines to Skipton under a Labour government, the Shadow Transport Secretary promised yesterday.

Andy McDonald gave a ‘cast iron’ guarantee the work would start within 10 years of the party winning power.

But he refused to give any firm commitments on any extension of the M65 beyond Colne or a mainline network rail connection from Rawtenstall to Bury and Manchester.

Mr McDonald was speaking at Colne Station before catching a train to Burnley and then a bus to Rawtenstall.

He said: “Labour is committed to upgrading and electrifying the East Lancashire Line from Preston through Blackburn and Burnley to Colne.

“We are also committed to extending the line across the Pennines to Skipton and connecting it to Leeds.

“There is little point in doing that if we do not improve the rest of the line.

“This is about improving the connectivity of East Lancashire which has been short-changed on transport by the Conservatives like the rest of the North.

“The money is there and would come from a £500million National Transport Fund to be created by the government and the private sector.

“Re-opening the Colne to Skipton line would be a top priority for an incoming Labour government. The case has been made.

“This government has conducted feasibility studies but not committed any money to it. It’s a matter of political will.

“Work on reopening the route and upgrading the East Lancashire line would start within 10 years of Labour coming to power.

“We would look closely at a new network rail link from Rawtenstall to Bury but I am not giving a cast iron commitment as with Colne to Skipton reopening.

“A Labour government would look at an M65 link road from Colne. We are not going to just build more motorways but will look at congestion pinch points like Colne.

“Any M65 link road would be in addition to reopening the line to Skipton, not instead of it.”

County Cllr Joe Cooney, whose Pendle Central ward includes Colne, said: “If you look at the 13 years of the last Labour government, they spent not a penny on reopening the line to Skipton.

“This government has conducted the necessary feasibility studies for it to reopen.

“If you want to see this line back in use, don’t trust Labour.”