A CAMPAIGN to reopen a rail link which would give Keighley passengers a direct route into Lancashire has won top-level Labour Party backing.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald has put his weight behind efforts to resurrect the Skipton to Colne line.

He said the move could be "transformative" for the area.

Labour has identified the scheme as a high-priority measure that could be positive for business, rejuvenate areas of economic deprivation and alleviate congestion on the roads network.

"It's exactly the type of scheme that needs exploring as part of a much more significant commitment to boost investment in the north and close regional funding divides," added Mr McDonald.

"The social, economic and environmental case for expanding our rail network is clear, but the Tories have starved much of our country of the investment needed for our regions to reach their full potential.

"Under-investment in the regions is holding back our economy, particularly the absence of northern east-west rail links, which is why there is such a strong case for reopening the line between Colne and Skipton and for greater investment throughout the country.

"The route is a vital link between East Lancashire and Yorkshire, and when completed would deliver 50 miles of electrified railway line from Leeds to Burnley."

Politicians and campaigners have welcomed the backing.

Keighley's Labour MP, John Grogan, feels there is now a "realistic prospect" of the link being restored in the period between 2020 and 2025.

"I welcome the fact the Shadow Transport Minister has officially backed the reopening of the Skipton to Colne line," he added.

"Next year, the aim must be to get both the Government and the Opposition to commit themselves to the necessary funding."

Earlier this month, Mr Grogan co-chaired a meeting in the Commons to debate the proposed rail link.

Among those present were senior local authority representatives from Bradford, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, business leaders and rail bosses.

And a presentation was given by the Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership (SELRAP).

This week the partnership, formed by volunteers in 2001, said it was delighted with the latest support.

"We have been saying for years that the reinstatement of the line would create an invaluable route for passengers and freight and be an important part of the future success story of the region," said the group's communications officer, Andy Shackleton.

"We welcome this latest announcement from the Shadow Transport Secretary, which follows hot on the heels of the Secretary of State Chris Grayling recently stating on TV that the innovative scheme would become a priority."

The new 12-mile line would follow the course of the old route, which closed in 1970.