BURY could be at the heart of a new orbital railway link as part of plans being drawn up to revive a defunct section of train line.

Transport bosses are currently working towards developing a strategic outline business case (SOBC) for the reopening and improvement of up to 10km of the decades old Bury to Rochdale railway.

The stretch of track which is set to be studied was last used in the 1960s before being axed during passenger network cuts.

If successful the reinstated train line could be used to create an orbital link between of Bury, Heywood, Rochdale and Oldham, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) said.

It could also see the creation two new Metrolink lines ­— connecting Bury to Manchester and Rochdale to Manchester ­— and a heavy rail line connecting to area of Castleton to Manchester.

A TfGM spokesman said: "The corridor would serve the Greater Manchester local authorities of Rochdale and Bury, connecting them with an orbital service with potential for onward inner-city connections via the existing operational heavy rail and Metrolink networks.

"The service could be operated by either Metrolink or tram-train vehicles, or a combination of the two, subject to further business case development."

The study into developing an SOBC comes after TfGM made a successful bid for support from the first round of the Government's Restoring Your Railways Ideas Fund.

Through this the Department for Transport will provide 75 per cent of costs up to £50,000 towards the study.

However, future funding to develop the project would be 'subject to agreement of the business case', TfGM revealed.

This week it was confirmed that the study will not negatively impact the popular East Lancashire Railway (ELR), which runs services on a separate part of the line, and could actually be a boon to the heritage attraction.

Mike Kelly, ELR chairman, said that the project could offer a chance to pursue a number of alternative revenue streams for the railway through carriage and freight storage.

And Keith Whitmore, the ELR Preservation Society vice president, added that it could be be a step towards bringing in more visitors and uniting the region's heritage transport attractions.