£40m green transport project gets go-ahead

Better bus links will benefit East Lancashire after a £40m upgrade was given the go ahead by transport minister Norman Baker.

Norman BakerThe improved bus network, known as the Pennine Reach, is designed to support economic growth, improving connections between the major urban areas in the East Pennine sub-region including Blackburn, Accrington and Darwen.

The package of improvements includes new bus stations at Blackburn and Accrington, dedicated bus lanes, parking restrictions to improve traffic flow, increased use of smartcard ticketing, improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists and improvements in traffic control systems, like traffic lights that prioritise buses.

Norman Baker said: “This scheme will help boost the East Lancashire economy while providing everyone with easy access to good quality public transport, with easy connections between the area’s key towns and linking with the rail network. Buses play a vital role in people’s daily lives, getting them to work, school or college, to the shops or out to see friends.

“The £31.9m we are putting into this project shows that the coalition government recognises that investing in sustainable transport is a central way to drive economic growth. Boosting bus use and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians is a great way to help town centres.”

The Pennine Reach scheme was one of the schemes given funding approval in 2011 as part of the Spending Review process. Work can now start on the scheme.

The announcement grants Full (final) Approval to the Pennine Reach Scheme, promoted by Blackburn with Darwen Borough and Lancashire County Councils, enabling the initial phase of work to begin.

Elements of the package will become available as they are built or put in place with completion of Blackburn Bus Station scheduled for December 2014 and the final highway works complete by March 2016. The Department will provide a maximum of £31.9m towards the full scheme cost of £39.9m. The availability of the Department’s full funding is subject to the successful completion of any remaining statutory approvals for the remaining elements of the scheme which have yet to be completed.