Burnley Council hosted a ground-breaking ceremony to celebrate work starting on the redevelopment of Manchester Road Railway Station to prepare for direct services to Manchester beginning in late 2014.
The new Burnley station will coincide with the reopening of the Todmorden Curve which will allow for direct services to Manchester in less than one hour, instead of changing at Hebden Bridge as now.
Lancashire-based construction company Walter Carefoot & Sons is on site in Burnley Manchester Road working to a completion date of March 2014, with architectural and engineering support provided by Hyder and Strzala.
A Northern Rail spokeswoman said: "We have been working closely with Lancashire County Council and Burnley Borough Council to develop a timetable which will go live when the service is introduced in December 2014."
The service is expected to run from Blackburn to Manchester Victoria, passing through Accrington among six stops before Burnley and on to Todmorden towards Manchester. The station is being developed following partnership work with Lancashire County Council, the European Community initiative Citizens Rail Interreg IVB, the East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership, Northern Rail and Network Rail.
These improvements are likely to see a strong increase in passenger numbers at the station, which is already Burnley's busiest station.
Richard Watts, speaking for Citizens' Rail Interreg IVB project, said: "This is a significant project demonstrating the importance of rail connectivity as a driver of local economies. The station will not only offer the normal range of facilities but provides a base for the East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and the Northern Rail Community Ambassadors."
Dyan Crowther, route managing director, Network Rail, said: "Rail travel across the whole country is at an all-time high and set to continue to grow. The new Manchester Road Station and Todmorden Curve will complement our plans for the North including the Northern Hub and the redevelopment of Manchester Victoria, significantly improving services between the two centres."
The station was built in the current location at Manchester Road in 1886. This station closed on 6 November 1961 and reopened on 29 September 1986. By the time it reopened, the station building had been sold out of railway use for use as a dairy storage and distribution facility. The site was purchased by Burnley Council and Lancashire County Council in November 2011 with the aim of bringing the building back into rail use. The project is being funded by Burnley Council, Lancashire County Council, the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg IVB NEW programme; and Network Rail.
This work is ahead of a 20-week scheme to improve the Holme Tunnel, Holme Chapel. Until that part of the project is complete, the railway between Burnley Manchester Road and Todmorden will be closed between November 2013 and March 2014.