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A new study into the potential reopening of a historic rail line linking Lancashire and Yorkshire has been announced by Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling.
The study is being co-commissioned by the Department for Transport and Transport for the North and is due to be completed later this year.
The Transport Secretary announced the feasibility study into the value of reopening the Skipton – Colne railway on a visit to Colne Railway Station on Saturday 4 February.
The 12-mile line, which closed in 1970, could create a faster rail route across the Pennines and allow new passenger services between Lancashire, Skipton and Leeds, connecting towns on the route to new jobs and education opportunities.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are carrying out the biggest investment in the North for a generation and are committed to improving rail links to boost the Northern Powerhouse.
“The historic line between Skipton and Colne could deliver a vital connection between the North-West and North-East, generating a vital cross-Pennine link to boost business and move goods between the east and west much more quickly.
“I want this study to look clearly at the business case and value that the line could provide.”
The study supports Transport for the North’s ambition to improve connectivity in the central Pennines corridor.
Transport for the North’s Chief Executive, Barry White, said: “We are delighted that the Department for Transport has committed to exploring the possibility of reopening the railway line between Skipton and Colne. We will now work with the Department, taking note of previous work undertaken, to produce a cost and economic benefit study for re-opening the line.
“In our recently published draft Strategic Transport Plan for the North, we identified the Central Pennines as one of seven Strategic Development Corridors vital to future economic growth in the North. This work could help to improve connectivity in the Central Pennines and a reopened rail link between Skipton and Colne could create a new, faster freight-route across the Pennines as well as benefiting passengers with new services between Lancashire, Skipton and Leeds.”
He added: “This supports our vision of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.”
Rail North, which is planned to merge with Transport for the North from April this year, intends to commission work looking at the potential for other re-openings across the North.
The government has said it will explore opportunities to restore capacity lost under the Beeching and British Rail cuts of the 1960s and 1970s, but to be successful, schemes must unlock housing and growth, ease crowded routes, meet future demand and offer good value for money. It has set aside significant funding for the development of new railway schemes in the next railway funding period from 2019 to 2024.