A TRANSPORT minister will be told next week that electrifying the East Lancashire Line and extending it across the Pennines is vital to boosting the local economy.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones will lead a special 90-minute Parliamentary debate on the route from Preston through Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley and Nelson to Colne.

The session in the House of Commons second Westminster Hall chamber will also discuss the proposed reinstatement of the Colne to Skipton rail link.

The debate, secured by Labour backbencher Mr Jones after he hosted a meeting in Parliament to discuss the campaign to upgrade and extend the line, will be responded to by a transport minister.

It follows concerns that consultants for the Department of Transport expressing concern about the suitability of an extended line for trans-Pennine freight traffic.

Mr Jones will also call for the creation of a major freight terminal for the extended line on the sidings of the former Huncoat Power Station in his constituency.

He is concerned the departure of the previous transport secretary Chris Grayling, a strong supporter of reopening the Colne to Skipton rail link, may have diminished the government's enthusiasm for it.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tony Greaves both hope to attend the debate to show their support but will be unable to speak.

Mr Jones said: "I shall be asking the minister to electrify the whole East Lancashire line from Preston and extend it over the Pennines from Colne to Skipton.

"It needs to become a major East-West freight route boosting prosperity and creating jobs across East Lancashire.

"I shall also call for a major new freight terminal to be built on the sidings of the former Huncoat Power station to service the line.

"Since Chris Grayling departure from government there appears to be some confusion about this project and I shall be asking the minister to clarify the situation."

Lord Greaves said: "Department of Transport officials at Monday's meetings said some discouraging things. The more pressure we put on the government the better."

Mr Stephenson said: “Reopening the line would boost Pendle’s economy, make getting to and from cities like Leeds so much easier,and make the line from Preston more important and reduce traffic congestion too."