PLANS for a £17.5 million revamped East Lancashire Railway will be scrapped unless people support the congestion charge, councillors have said.

Two weeks ago, the Bury Times reported that the council would consider modernising the line, allowing commuters to travel from Rawtenstall to Bury before linking up with the existing Metrolink line into Manchester.

But councillors speaking at last Wednesday’s council executive meeting admitted they could only get the funding if a county-wide congestion charge comes into force.

If the charge idea is scrapped — as the Tories, the borough’s ruling party, want — the council won’t be able to afford to modernise the railway line.

Council Leader Bob Bibby said: “My position on this issue has always been clear. We do not support the congestion charge. When the idea was first put forward, there was absolutely nothing in it for Bury. It is good that this railway idea has been put on the table, but it does not change the position of this council.”

Despite that verdict, the opposition Labour group said after the meeting that they may have found a way round it.

Labour leader Wayne Campbell said the council could ask Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) to stump up the cash.

“This report has been raised and then dumped in its present format because I do not believe people will support the congestion charge. They have not been given enough information about the benefits of it,” said Coun Campbell after the meeting.

He added: “Without the money the congestion charge would generate, we would have to look elsewhere and GMPTE could be the answer.

“I welcome the report because it is something that has been considered and talked about for many years.

“The beauty about this plan is that most of the train line is already there — it would just be a case of building 200 yards of track, modernising it and putting rolling stock on it. We are not talking vast sums of money, though we will have to see how much it will cost.”

Councillors sitting on the executive voted to accept the report. More research will now be carried out into it how much it would cost.

It could, however, be up to three years before a decision is made because of the complexities of resolving the congestion-charge issue.

But there was some good news for Buckley Wells residents, who were given an assurance from Coun Bibby that there would not be a station there and that the railway line would join the Metrolink line at Bolton Street.

Last week Buckley Wells resident Carl Chrystan said: “The impact of a stop at Buckley Wells would be catastrophic for all the residents in the area.

“Disruption, noise, traffic and parking problems, lower property values and crime would be the main things that residents would suddenly be subjected to.”