Business leaders back rail link bid

Published December 14, 2018 at 10:10

Business leaders gave their backing to a bid to reinstate a commuter rail link between Rossendale, Manchester, Rochdale and beyond.

At the meeting of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce (ELCC) Rossendale Business Leaders at AG6 in Rawtenstall, an update on the progress made by Rossendale Council and its partners was given.

Rossendale Council Chief Executive Stuart Sugarman discussed a recent meeting the Council Leader Councillor Alyson Barnes had requested with Northern Powerhouse Minister and Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry in London.

It involved MPs from along the rail route, and officers, and the findings of a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research were discussed.

He said:

We gave a presentation and what was really positive was that from the discussions afterwards there was a really clear feeling that everybody understood the benefits to them.

That is the difference we have made – other areas can now see the benefits this would have for them – Bury, Ramsbottom and Heywood.

The study found the link to be both viable and feasible.

Chief Executive Officer of Interfloor John Cooper said his company employs 270 people in Haslingden and they travel from a wide area.

He said:

I think the idea of a rail link would be incredibly positive for the wellbeing of a lot of people as well as for the environment.

The proposal would ‘put Rossendale on the map’ said Bob Killelea, Managing Director of steel fabricator’s James Killelea and Sons in Crawshawbooth.

He said:

Some of my staff commute to work from Manchester and we have had to bring in flexible working hours so they can have an early start and early finish. If I didn’t do that I would lose staff from the Manchester area. This is a must for Rossendale.

Rossendale’s largest employer J and J Ormerod, with bases across Rossendale, schedules its deliveries to avoid peak periods because of the congestion.

Joint Managing Director Stephen Greenhalgh described a rail link as a ‘major priority’.

Having previously worked in Salford, Peter Boys, Director of Waterfoot construction firm B&E Boys, knows the problems first hand. He said: “It is essential for the future prosperity of the Valley.”

A rail link would ‘change everything’ for Rossendale said Tony Holt, Joint Managing Director of Linemark Signs in Rawtenstall.

He said:

We have people who come from Wilmslow and the commute is terrible. After making that journey when you get into work you are already exhausted before you have started the day.

At the meeting, everyone agreed East Lancashire Railway needed to get involved in future discussions and Chief Executive of ELCC Miranda Barker said a meeting would be held with Barry White, Chief Executive of Transport for the North.

The next step is to try to get funding agreed for a Strategic Outline Business Case – which will cost approximately £250,000 – to explore the options put forward in the report.

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