Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 16:34 UK

Commuter call for tourist railway

Steam train - picture courtesy of East Lancashire Railway
The councils are looking at a half-hourly service at peak times

Proposals are being considered to extend a tourist steam railway line to provide a commuter link between Lancashire and Manchester.

Rossendale councillors met with Bury and Rochdale colleagues to discuss operating a regular service on the East Lancashire Railway (ELR).

The ELR currently runs for tourists between Rawtenstall and Bury.

The plans would mean daily commuters could use a more regular service to connect with the Metrolink in Bury.

The councils are looking at a half-hourly service at peak times.

An extended railway for commuters would regenerate the area, said the councils.

'Employment opportunities'

Councillor Bill Challinor, deputy leader of Rossendale Council, said the rail link should be a top priority for Lancashire as it had the potential to be implemented relatively quickly.

"It opens up employment opportunities in Manchester, Rochdale and Bury and helps to attract new businesses into Rossendale," he said.

The Rawtenstall to Manchester commuter link currently has been endorsed by the government and Lancashire County Council.

Mr Challinor added the council would make a strong case for funding to Lancashire County Council and its other partners, including ELR and public transport for Greater Manchester, GMPTE.

ELR is one of England's heritage lines and currently serves about 120,000 passengers a year.

The original route closed to regular passengers in the 1970s but reopened in 1987 between Ramsbottom and Bury.

It was extended to Rawtenstall, followed by the Heywood link in 2003.

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