TRANSPORT chiefs have agreed to explore re-opening the Skipton to Colne rail line after pleas from campaigners.
The One North group will examine the proposal, as part of its £15 billion blueprint to improve road and rail links across the Pennines.
The move follows protests that the group – backed by Chancellor George Osborne – is dominated by five big cities; Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.
One North will also consider the case for re-instating the 11.5- mile missing section of railway between Skipton and Colne, which was closed in 1970.
Quizzed by MPs at Westminster, Dr Jon Lamonte, who is also chief executive of Transport for Greater Manchester, said One North had only recently received a proposal.
He said: “I am very well aware that there is a very strong body from that area who want to look at that. We have not looked at it very carefully yet.”
However, asked by the chairwoman of the transport select committee if it would be considered, Dr Lamonte replied: “Absolutely.”
The move will encourage the Skipton East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership (SELRAP), which has fought a long campaign to reopen the Skipton to Colne line - built in 1848.
Furthermore, Mr Osborne has said he is ready to fund viable proposals in One North’s submission as part of his plans to for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ of better-connected places.
However, the price could be steep. Back in 2008, Network Rail put the bill at £43m for a single-track line or £81m for a double-track line.
Also, Todmorden Curve was recently reinstated in East Lancashire, but has yet to reopen – because there are no trains available to run on it.
The announcement came as the committee heard that the North’s economy is “held back” by a lack of Government spending on its train services.
And the same mistake will be repeated unless the battle is won for new investment by a December deadline, Northern leaders told the MPs.
The inquiry heard warnings that: * the North needs 460 new train carriages if planned track improvements are to deliver the hoped-for economic boost.
* there is “no clarity” that funding will be made available – or even that the carriages will exist.
* people are abandoning journeys they hope to make because the services do not run, or will be too overcrowded.
* hoped-for improvements will be “locked out for seven to nine years” unless hurdles are overcome by December, when specifications for new franchises are published.
David Welch, executive member of SELRAP, and a Skipton town councillor, said it was encouraging that the matter had been brought up by transport committee chairman, Louise Ellman.
Skipton MP Julian Smith said he would continue to support SELRAP.
And he added: “I believe that to move the project forward there needs to be local council commitment as much as Government commitment but I am pleased they are getting a good reception by the parliamentary committees they have met.”