A NEW rail link between Bury and Manchester could be on track after a study found it was ‘feasible and cost effective’.

Politicians, business leaders and officers, including Bury North MP James Frith, met with Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry in London at the end of last month to update him on the findings of the early strategic case for rail investment.

The study, commissioned by Rossendale Council in partnership with Lancashire County Council, looked into connecting Rawtenstall and Manchester and was carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

The report describes a ‘promising option’ as a peak period shuttle service between Rawtenstall and Bury using the East Lancashire Railway and a new heavy rail link from a disused platform at Bury Bolton Street Station to Castleton.

Passengers would then have access to Manchester, Rochdale and West Yorkshire.

Under the plans, stations at Ramsbottom, Summerseat and Burrs Country Park could also be used, while Stubbins railway station and a new station at Heap Bridge are being considered as other possible park and ride options.

The report concludes: “Overall, we believe this work indicates that feasible options exist for investment which could deliver significant economic benefits, reduce congestion, and meet environmental targets in a way which will not harm the valuable operations of the East Lancashire Railway, and may even be to their benefit.”

Cllr Rishi Shori, leader of Bury Council, said: “We are keen to build on opportunities which can open up our town centre to Rossendale and wider Lancashire and improve connectivity to Manchester city centre, as well as improving public transport access for those in the north of our borough such as Ramsbottom.

“These are early days, however, and any progress will depend on the viability of the business case being prepared.”

Bury North MP James Frith added: “I believe there’s merit in considering all efforts to improve public transport and connectivity for the people of Bury, Tottington and Ramsbottom.

“I support calls for Transport for the North to carry out a modern feasibility study into the possibility of a rail link connecting Bury and Ramsbottom to Manchester and Rawtenstall.

“I’ve made clear that I will not support any scheme that puts at risk our brilliant heritage and community asset, the East Lancashire Railway.

“I have also made clear my support is conditional on the necessary protection, enhancement and sustainability of the ELR who I will meet with again to discuss this in detail to ensure their views are integral as this moves forward.”

Transport for the North is said to be officially considering the plans.