The East Lancashire Railway has been granted a new licence that permits mainline operators to test vehicles on its tracks at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

The safety certificate from the Office of Rail and Road replaces the previous limit of 25 miles per hour on our heritage network.

The decision makes the East Lancashire Railway one of the few railways in Britain whose own infrastructure has been passed for operations at 60 miles per hour. The section of line that the licence is applicable for runs between Heywood, Bury and Summerseat, the remainder of the route remains at 25 miles per hour.

The resulting commercial opportunities from operators and contractors is likely to provide a welcome boost to our finances.

Our Head of Operations, Jeff Armstrong, has said: “This new non-mainline certification from the Office of Rail and Road marks a significant expansion in our testing capacity.

We have a long tradition of welcoming operators and contractors to the network, but this new licence now eliminates any need to request temporary dispensations – making the entire process of testing equipment more streamlined and straightforward for all”.

The new safety certificate is valid until Jan 2028 and also permits filming at 60 miles per hour.

During lockdown the railway was used to commission a new fleet of Linsinger Milling Machines. Next year Network Rail are planning to use the network for the testing of new stoneblowers.

Our chairman Mike Kelly added: “We are all rightfully proud of the important role the ELR plays in helping rail operators meet the highest standards of operational safety.

“Securing this new Safety Certificate has been a real team effort and I’d like to salute the dedication and hard-work of everyone from the railway who has been involved in this project.

“As a registered charity, it is vital we continue to develop new revenue streams, and we look forward to becoming an even greater partner for mainline operators and contractors.”