The Leeds and Liverpool Canal will be brought back into industrial use next year when it’s used to transport goods to help replace a Victorian railway bridge.

Goods and materials will be transported by barge as part of work to replace the bridge between Rishton and Church & Oswaldtwistle stations. At the same time, a pontoon will also be placed on the canal at Rose Grove to create a safe working space for engineers to strengthen another railway bridge.

The work is part of a £3.95m investment by Network Rail to improve journeys on the East Lancashire line which runs between Blackpool, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.

The vital work means sections of the railway between Blackburn and Colne, and Blackburn, Accrington and Todmorden will be closed between 15-23 February. Passengers are being urged to plan their journeys and check before they travel.

Sarah Padmore, scheme project manager at Network Rail, said: “We are always looking at innovative ways we can help provide a better railway while causing the least amount of disruption to passengers and local communities. Using the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was an obvious way to do this and we will be transporting material to and from site throughout the work.

“I’m grateful to passengers, canal users and local residents for their patience while this essential work is delivered and urge anyone who is planning to travel by train between 15-23 February to plan their journeys and check before they travel. Our work will help keep passenger services reliable and safe for decades to come.”

Christopher Jackson, regional director at Northern said: “The vital work being carried out by Network Rail will provide our customers with a more reliable railway for many years.

“We will continue to work closely with colleagues across the rail industry to minimise the impact on our customers and I’d like to thank everyone for their patience while the work is completed.”

Mark Overum, area operations manager from the Canal & River Trust, said: “It’s great that Network Rail is using the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to transport goods along it instead of using the road and we’re are pleased to be working with them on this project. The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is a fantastic resource for all to enjoy so we encourage people to spend some time by the water as we know that improves people’s health and wellbeing.”

As well as the bridge work, new drainage will also be installed in the Rose Grove area to help protect the railway during heavy rainfall. Track improvements will also be delivered at Townley Tunnel and Gannow Junction.

There also will be two closures of the canal and its towpaths by Oswaldtwistle Golf Course from Monday 20 January until the Friday 13 March and at Rose Grove from the 27 January until 6 March.

The East Lancashire line is used by passengers travelling between Blackpool, Preston, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, via Accrington and Burnley.

To plan journeys and check for the latest travel information, visit www.nationalrail.co.uk

Notes to editors:

During the weekends between 15-24 February:
• Preston – Colne services will terminate and start at Blackburn, with buses operating Blackburn – Colne calling at all stations.
• Wigan – Manchester Victoria – Todmorden – Blackburn services will terminate and start at Todmorden, with buses operating stations between Todmorden and Blackburn, plus Church and Oswaldtwistle on Sunday only).
• York – Blackpool North services will terminate and start at Hebden Bridge, with buses operating between Hebden Bridge and Preston.

During the week:
• Preston – Colne services will terminate and start at Blackburn, with buses operating between Blackburn and Colne calling at all stations.
• Wigan – Manchester Victoria – Todmorden – Blackburn services will terminate and start at Accrington, connecting with buses between Accrington and Blackburn.
• York – Blackpool North services will terminate and start at Accrington, with buses operating between Accrington and Preston.