Reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve
Source: Rail Technology Magazine Dec/Jan 2013
Claire Ruth reports on progress being made on the Todmorden Curve project to allow direct Manchester to Burnley services.
Work to reinstate 500 metres of track to connect Burnley and Manchester via the Todmorden Curve for the first time in decades is pressing ahead.
The project had funding approved in October 2011, with the £8.8m development set to allow direct rail services by May 2014.
Network Rail’s scheme sponsor for the work told us: “We’re currently in GRIP stage 4, detailed design. As part of that we’re discussing the finer points of the design with railway stakeholders, seeking their approval prior to the formal process of Network Change.
“Assuming that we get that then we are still on course for commissioning December 2013/ January 2014, with the first services between Burnley and Manchester running over the chord from the May 2014 timetable. We’ve also undertaken some work to clear the vegetation / trees from the proposed alignment of the chord.”
Most of the track was removed in 1972, and regular passenger services had not run along the route since the mid-1960s.
The pressing need for the project was outlined by the bid team who managed to win £8.8m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, when they said: “The facts simply speak for themselves: nowhere else in the country is there a town of 90,000 people 23 miles from an urban centre of 2.5 million people without a direct rail link between the two. It is Reading without a direct train line into London; Warrington to Manchester; Skipton to Leeds: unimaginable for some yet a reality for train travel between Burnley and Manchester.”
Naturally, halving the journey time to around 45 minutes is seen as a significant gain for the East Lancashire community, as it will strengthen links within the area and open up new possibilities for studies, jobs and accommodation. In the current economic climate, these new links will be especially crucial for Burnley, to stimulate muchneeded growth. It is therefore not surprising that local authorities are positive about the developments, and they and local businesses say the project is also helping to ‘unlock’ a further £100m in development in the area near Burnley’s Manchester Road station known as the Weavers’ Triangle.
However, a small landslide in Cornholme along the Burnley to Todmorden line in October showed the need to tread carefully during the restoration – though it was quickly dealt with, with services resuming four hours after it was first reported.
In addition to the redevelopment of the track is the plan to revamp Manchester Road railway station in Burnley – for which the recent design has been greeted with mixed reviews by councillors.
Some people do have concerns about the Todmorden Curve initiative, suggesting that the project could isolate Burnley further as a ‘commuter town’, driving economic and social resources towards Manchester and away from where they are needed most.
Others fear the reestablishment of the line will mean the end of a busy bus service from Burnley to Manchester, Transdev’s X43 route.
But most people in the town think better transport links with Manchester can only be a good thing. Burnley’s Lib Dem MP Gordon Birtwistle, who has pushed for the project to go ahead, told RTM: “Work is ongoing on the Todmorden Curve; a new station is also being built.
“If all goes to plan the new station should be open at the start of 2014 with the first trains running January 2014.
“The benefits to Burnley and the surrounding areas will be significant. A direct train link with a travel time of 38 minutes to Manchester will increase business opportunities and grow the GPD of Burnley. The train line will open up jobs in Manchester for people living in Burnley by substantially reducing travel time whilst also opening Burnley up for investment.
“I have personally campaigned for the reopening of the Todmorden Curve for many years – long before becoming an MP – so I am incredibly excited to see Network Rail working on the lines. Having such vastly improved connectivity will really make a difference to the people of Burnley.”
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