RAIL enthusiasts have spoken of their sadness after a woman died shortly after gaining access to a heritage line.

Bosses at East Lancashire Railway (ELR) have also revealed before now the extent to which trespassers have hampered their efforts since lockdown began.

It is believed there was damaged fencing around the Alfred Street bridge, which may have allowed access to the line.

An investigation is underway by police and the Office for Rail and Road (ORR).

It is understood an elderly woman,who has not been named, was found there in a confused state. She is said to have later died.

Mike Kelly, ELR chairman, said: “I can confirm there has been an incident on the railway during the lockdown period, when there were no trains running.

“It is normal in such circumstances to report the incident to the Office of Rail & Road (ORR) and we are working closely with the ORR and assisting the police with their enquiries.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the lady’s family. As there is a coroner’s inquest pending it is not possible to comment further.”

An inspection is thought to have already taken place around the Alfred Street bridge to assess any breaches and possible points of trespass.

Padlocks are fitted to the main ELR gate and a side gate at Alfred Street and there are now no holes in the fence.

Rail campaigners have been told that ‘shakedown trains’, which are usually a precursor to full services resuming, cannot be run on the line until full inspections take place on the Bury to Heywood and Bury to Rawtenstall lines.

Mr Kelly added: “The reopening of the railway remains under constant review.

“After being closed for three months, there is much repair and maintenance work to do behind the scenes to prepare the railway for our staff, volunteers and visitors to safely return and enjoy the unique heritage rail experience. At present there is no firm date to start running trains.”

An Office of Rail and Road spokesman said: “First and foremost we wish to pass our condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.

“We have visited the site and carried out a line-side inspection. However Greater Manchester Police have assumed primacy in this matter and it would be remiss for us to comment any further at this stage.”