Rail enthusiasts have moved a step closer to reopening the Poulton to Fleetwood rail link.

The move came at a meeting of the Poulton and Wyre Railway Society last week.

An agreement was signed with Network Rail giving the society responsibility for a stretch of track in Thornton, including the disused station, from the Station Road crossing to the crossing at the junction of Hillylaid Road and Lawsons Road.

Rail restoration activist Eddie Fisher, the founding chairman of the society and now vice-chairman, said: "This is an historic agreement and another step on the ladder.

"It will be a challenge but we have to prove to Network Rail that we can do this."

The task for the society now is to clear the overgrown track and clean up the old station, which has been left abandoned since 1970.

Councillor Russell Forsyth, Wyre council leader, said: "This is great news. The track is an eyesore and a corridor for vandalism and, as a Thornton councillor, I am very pleased it is going to be cleaned up.

"The bigger picture is that this is another important step towards the restoration of the rail link."

Hopes are now growing that trains will soon be running again from Poulton to Thornton and Burn Naze, and, hopefully, on to Fleetwood.

Network Rail has created a new track layout at Poulton, which will allow trains to enter and leave the Thornton and Fleetwood line without affecting the current timetabled services on the busy Blackpool North line.

Local rail campaigners say they have the backing of leading rail freight companies, who are keen to see the line open.

Campaigners also want a passenger service to return to the area, and are keen on a heritage rail service using steam power, which they believe could be a popular tourist attraction.

The society is currently funded by its membership fees.

It will be looking for extra funds from various sources, including Network Rail and the North West Development Agency, once the line is ready to re-open, which could be within three to five years.