EAST Lancashire’s shelved multi-million pound bus lane scheme could be back on in revised form – minus the bus lane.
Transport chiefs are in talks with the Government over reviving Pennine Reach after a council leader admitted in October the proposal was ‘dead’ following a snub by ministers.
The scheme was originally budgeted at £50million and was designed to link Darwen, Blackburn and Hyndburn via a high-speed bus lane together with new or improved bus stations.
Bosses from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council have now admitted the controversial lane looks set to be dropped to concentrate on improving bus stations and ticketing.
Blackburn with Darwen Council chief executive Graham Burgess said: “There’s a chance to put a revised scheme forward and that would not be the original Pennine Reach, but would be made up of some of the parts of Pennine Reach.
“For example, it may not have a bus lane and that might make it less controversial.”
County council transport chief Coun Tim Ashton said: “The Government has come to us and said they will support the scheme but not for quite as much money as before.
“Why would we say no to that?”
The scheme may now be worth £40 million – £10million less than before, said Coun Ashton.
It is understood that instead, the revised Pennine Reach could concentrate on improvements to bus stations in Blackburn and Accrington, and bus provision near Blackburn College.
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones, who is also a county councillor, said bosses should use the opportunity to introduce ‘smart cards’ for bus travellers similar to pre-loaded Oyster cards used on the London Under-ground.
He said: “I don’t understand why people would not want it to happen.
“Lancashire County Council still wants it to happen.”