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No funding for East Lancashire rail improvements
THE prospects of improving East Lancashire’s creaking rail links are looking remote after they were snubbed by regional government bosses.
Much-needed revamps of the region’s connections to Manchester have been left off a new document setting out what will be given funding up to 2019.
Council bosses insist they are still hopeful of finding the cash to pay for the projects.
But Network Rail has already confirmed it has no plans to improve the Clitheroe to Manchester line, which would increase the frequency of services through Blackburn, or reinstate the Todmorden Curve which would mean direct trains between Manchester and Burnley.
The snub is a bitter blow after PM Gordon Brown signed a much-trumpeted agreement with council bosses in January.
The Pennine Lancashire agreement, which sees East Lancashire’s councils working together towards joint goals, promised to put the rail links at the top of its priorities. But government bosses avoided committing to actually carrying out the work.
Now the Regional Funding Advice has been produced by the North West Regional Development Agency and 4NW, which looks at regional planning matters.
It allocates hundreds of millions of pounds to major projects across the region.
Phil Robinson, chief executive of 4NW, admitted preparing the document meant some “tough choices”.
But Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Michael Lee said he was still hopeful: “I would hope it would happen regardless of what’s in there.
"We never expected it before 2013 anyway. You can’t sign something then say you’re not bothering any more.”
The infrastructure of the Clitheroe line needs to be improved before more frequent, longer trains can be added.
Meanwhile, studies have shown reinstating the Todmorden Curve would mean a 38-minute journey from Manchester to Burnley, and 49 minutes to Accrington, benefiting 170,000 people.
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