PENDLE MP Andrew Stephenson has been appointed rail minister in this week’s Government reshuffle.

He moves to the Department of Transport from a similar second-rank role at the Foreign Office where he was responsible for Africa.

Blackburn with Darwen Council deputy leader Cllr Phil Riley and Pendle Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tony Greaves said Mr Stephenson faced big challenges.

Mr Stephenson, elected in 2010, has been a strong supporter of reopening the Colne-to-Skipton rail link.

He said: “I am delighted to be appointed Rail Minister by the Prime Minister though sad to leave behind excellent teams in the Foreign Office and Department for International Development.

“I look forward to working with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on improving our rail network for commuters and to better connect our country.”

Lord Greaves said: “He is now in the front line on the Colne-Skipton rail link and on Northern Rail now it is going back into public ownership.

"Passengers want to see its performance improve and know when they buy a ticket to Colne their train will get there rather than dropping them off at Blackburn or Burnley. Good luck to him.”

Cllr Riley, a Transport for the North Board member, said: “He needs to ensure East Lancashire does not miss out on promised rail improvements. We look forward to working with him."