East Lancashire MPs Nigel Evans and Andrew Stephenson have met with transport minister Huw Merriman to step up the campaign to reopen the Clitheroe to Hellifield railway line to passengers.

They were joined by Lancashire-based peer Lord David Alton and Ribble Valley Council leader Cllr Stephen Atkinson.

Passenger services on the route between Blackburn and Hellifield were originally withdrawn during the 1960s as part of the Beeching railway cuts.

While full services between Blackburn and Clitheroe were restarted almost 30 years ago, there remains a connectivity gap between Clitheroe and Hellifield.

Now with the cancellation of the northern leg of the HS2 high speed rail line from London, the government has promised £20 billion of its costs will be spent in the North of England.

Ribble Valley MP Mr Evans and and his Pendle Conservative Parliamentary colleague Mr Stephenson, Lord Alton and Cllr Atkinson met rail minister Mr Merriman earlier this month week to make the case for the reinstatement of passenger services on the Clitheroe to Hellifield Railway Line.

The two MPs are pushing hard for this line to be brought back into regular service in order to provide greatly improved and sustainable linkages between Greater Manchester, Lancashire, North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.

Mr Evans said: “With the reallocation of HS2 funding to other regional transport projects, now is the absolute perfect time to bring this important line back into regular service.

"It would open up a key route for tourists visiting the Ribble Valley and offer thousands of people a more sustainable and direct route to visit Yorkshire for sightseeing, work, school and more.

"This is a clear win win move and a real opportunity for Ribble Valley residents.

"I am confident ministers will see the many merits of this plan and I will continue to push for the full expansion of services.”

Mr Stephenson said: “Passenger services on this line wouldn’t just benefit the Ribble Valley, but would provide a boost to a much wider area.

"I was encouraged by the discussion we had with the rail minister and will continue fighting for these services to be introduced.”

At the beginning of this month on a visit to Accrington, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised: "Every penny that would have been spent on HS2 in the north is staying in the north - that's almost £20 billion of money."

But he refused to commit to government backing to specific projects, saying: ’The key thing is that the bulk of that is going to local areas to decide how to invest on their own local priorities, rather than someone sitting all the way down in London or in Westminster saying do this or do that."