LANCASHIRE County Council and Rossendale Borough Council have submitted a business case and funding request to Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) to reopen the Rawtenstall - Bury - Heywood - Castleton Junction line in order to restore a passenger service to Manchester.

This follows a favourable study conducted by Systra for the two local authorities. According to Systra, the options put forward have a strong economic case. A journey time of 44 minutes is envisaged between Rawtenstall and Manchester Victoria.

“We fully support the new rail link,” says Councillor Charlie Edwards, cabinet member for highways and transport with Lancashire County Council. “There is a limit to the amount of traffic which the valley roads can cope with, and the creation of a regular rail service to Manchester has great potential.”

The two councils hope that the DfT will make a decision on the project in spring 2023 as part of its Restoring Your Railway scheme.

The line is currently operated by enthusiasts as a tourist railway. According to the Lancashire Telegraph, a key part of the business case brief was to ensure that the existing East Lancashire Railway (ELR) heritage services can continue to operate alongside any regular passenger service, and that traditional features including stations and signalling would also be maintained. However, the chairman of ELR, Mr Mike Kelly, is opposed to the scheme as he fears it could lead to the withdrawal of the heritage service.