SUPPORTERS of regular passenger rail link between Rossendale and central Manchester have stepped up their campaign after a new report judged the route ‘feasible and cost-effective’.

The study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research has been sent to Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, which is looking at possible schemes.

It has also been delivered to Northern Powerhouse minister and Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry at Westminster by borough council leader Alyson Barnes..

Five options were examined and evaluated in the feasibility study.

Introducing a peak period shuttle service between Rawtenstall and Bury using the heritage East Lancashire Railway is described as a ‘promising option’.

It could connect to a new heavy rail link from a disused platform at Bury Bolton Street Station to Castleton to give passengers full access to Manchester, Rochdale and West Yorkshire.

The report concludes: “Overall, we believe this work indicates that feasible options exist for investment which could deliver significant economic benefits, reduce congestion, and meet environmental targets in a way which will not harm the valuable operations of the East Lancashire Railway, and may even be to their benefit.”

Cllr Barnes said: “The current commuter network between Rossendale and Manchester is not adequate.

"At peak periods both car drivers and bus passengers find themselves in nose-to-tail traffic on the A56, M66 and in the city centre.We therefore want to see the rail link treated as a high priority scheme in the forthcoming TfN Investment Programme 2020-50.”

Mr Berry said: “I regard this link as crucial not just for Rossendale but to the whole development of the Northern Powerhouse.”