Electrification of the ‘Copy Pit’ routes - from Leeds and Halifax via Burnley to Preston, and from Clitheroe to Bolton - is supported in the East Lancashire Rail Connectivity Study Conditional Output Statement.
The document was approved on June 1 as Lancashire County Council’s adopted position in future discussions with the rail industry and adjacent transport authorities, in relation to the industry’s plans for Control Period 6 that starts in 2019.
The report notes that rail journey times between East Lancashire and Manchester, Leeds and Preston are lengthy and sometimes require a change of train, while rolling stock is generally of poor quality.
“Fast, frequent and reliable access by train to Manchester Airport is of critical importance for businesses across Lancashire, yet there are currently no through services from East Lancashire, resulting in many trips to the airport made by car,” it says.
Other shortfalls in the current service are seen as slow journey times on the Copy Pit route, the long single track on the Colne branch, and capacity south of Blackburn.
The report’s conditional outputs (what, in principle, is required to solve the issues) include:
- Increasing capacity on the Blackpool South to Colne, Clitheroe to Manchester, Blackpool North to York, and Blackburn-Burnley-Manchester services.
- Relieving overcrowding on the Clitheroe line.
- Improving punctuality, journey times, and general journey quality.
Electrifying the routes noted above, together with associated rolling stock improvements and increased frequencies, make the most significant contribution towards economic benefits, although there are “likely to be significant engineering challenges associated with (some) of these proposals”.
The Copy Pit and Clitheroe-Manchester lines are suggested for wiring during the 2019-2024 Control Period in the North of England Electrification Task Force report (RAIL 770). The Connectivity Study says “this would enable all services between East Lancashire and Leeds and Manchester to be operated by electric units”.
Approving the report, John Fillis, the council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Quick, reliable transport connections are vital to ensure people and goods can move efficiently and support our economy, and significant investment is needed in East Lancashire’s rail network if the area is to realise its potential in the coming years.
“This is the evidence we need for negotiations with the rail industry about the next round of investment, to ensure we build upon recent successes and continue to see much-needed investment in rail in East Lancashire.”