MUSIC mogul Pete Waterman and Transport Minister Norman Baker made tracks for East Lancashire Railway in Bury amid hopes of a major extension to link to the national network.

Steam train buff Mr Waterman, president of the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society, was among several officials who greeted the Minister at the Bolton Street Station last Friday.

Mr Baker’s visit was to determine what is involved in the Castleton extension project.

ELR chairman Mr Peter Duncan explained: “Over a number of years we’ve been working with our local authority partners and Transport for Greater Manchester to identify ways of reducing congestion on the M66 motorway by the introduction of a possible commuter service on the ELR — whilst protecting the heritage railway which has been developed over the last 25 years. Consultants’ reports indicate that the cost to benefit ratio for such a scheme is not viable.”

However, in 2010, the East Lancashire Railway Trust published the Locum Report, setting out its development strategy over the next 10 years. One of the key objectives is to extend the ELR to Castleton and provide a cross platform interchange with Network Rail services on the Calder Valley Line.

This would involve opening up the ELR to visitors by rail from West Yorkshire and the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve, from East Lancashire.

Mr Duncan added: “This extension will enable the ELR to provide a connecting service to the national network which could be developed within the heritage railway context as demand and resources allow.”