CONSTRUCTION of a new Metrolink tramline to Bolton could start in 2022 transport secretary Grant Shapps has predicted.

The Cabinet minister said on a visit to the town yesterday that work on drawing up the details of the cost and route would start early next year if the Conservative were re-elected on December 12.

He said he was ‘absolutely’ committed to the project and he would be ‘disappointed’ if Greater Manchester Metro-Mayor Andy Burnham did not support it.

In an interview with the Bolton News Mr Shapps said the line could be built on a mix of existing railway tracks and new ones using cash from the government’s new £4.2billion Local Public Transport Fund.

Bolton South-East Labour candidate Sir David Crausby gave the news a cautious welcome but the party's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald branded it 'empty promises'.

Mr Shapps said: “If we’re elected next week, we’ll then working straight away. I think we’ve mentioned 2022 to start construction

“What you’ve got to do is get the bids in, got to make sure it all kind of stacks up, and then you actually start progressing with work on the ground.

“What I’d like to do as an early priority is start to get the details and ask the civil service to work the specifics of the scheme up and then it will take a couple of years to get everything in order and the ball rolling in terms of money coming through.

“These kind of size projects take time to happen obviously. If we are elected it will absolutely, absolutely happen.

“The main bulk of the funding would be provided by the government from the £4.2bn.”

Asked if it would be on existing railway tracks or new ones, Mr Shapps said: “It could be bit of both and I don’t know the answer. That’s one of the many things which needs to be looked into.”

He said: “I should be disappointed if Mayor Andy Burnham didn’t think connecting up places like Bolton were a good idea so I fully expect him to support it.

“Bolton feels like a town that’s coming up. It’s got to be connected and it needs to be connected to the city as well. We’re really keen to see it happen and we've responsibly earmarked the funding for it.”

Sir David said: “I would welcome this. It would be a good thing to do but it could be difficult to achieve.”

Mr McDonald said: “All the Tories have for Bolton is empty promises. There is nothing new here and not nearly enough for Bolton’s needs.

"This is just his rehash of one of his predecessor’s failed plans."

He added: "Even if Bolton gets all of that cash – that still wouldn’t be enough for the Metrolink extension plans that Mr Shapps is claiming he wants Bolton to have."