Plans to reopen the Skipton to Colne railway line are not just a pipe dream, according to politicians from all parties who joined rail industry experts for the third annual conference of SELRAP – the Skipton and East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership.

But the overwhelming advice from industry representatives was the need to move on from the successful campaign for support to the first stages of working out the detailed cost of the scheme and identifying where the money might come from.

Welcoming delegates to the event, held at Skipton’s Herriot’s Hotel on Friday, Skipton and Ripon MP David Curry said the high-profile gathering of speakers confirmed the reality of the proposal to re-lay the missing 11-and-a-half miles of track which closed to trains back in 1970.

He said: “The Shadow Transport Minister would quite simply not be in Skipton today if there was not a serious case for reopening this line.

“We are not dealing here with a bunch of bearded, sandal-wearing anoraks, but a group with their heads well and truly screwed on.”

Gordon Prentice, MP for Pendle and another long-term supporter of the scheme, agreed. He said: “Some people saw this as a pipe dream and some people were originally opposed to the idea, but most have now changed their mind and that dream is close to being a reality.

“This is something that can and should happen. If SELRAP was a bank, there would be no problem finding the money.”

In his speech to the well-attended conference, Stephen Hammond, the Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, acknowledged there were clear, substantial benefits for the reopening of the line, but that the case now needed to be put on a wider footing. “This is not just about the direct link from Skipton to Colne, but about the connectivity of two regions and the link to high- speed rail lines,” he said.

Mr Hamilton also spoke of the need for a change to the transport policy agenda.

He said: “There needs to be an absolute moratorium on building over disused rail lines and the Department of Transport needs to support community rail schemes, rather than try to be a rail operator or tell local people what is right for them.”

North-West MEP Chris Davies said: “The SELRAP campaign is really wakening up thanks to their professional approach and determination. This could become a very successful east-west rail link, with all the benefits of regeneration such a line would bring.”

And Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, told delegates that his party had identified 14 rail lines across the country, including Skipton to Colne, each with a strong case for reopening. He said: “It makes good hard-headed common sense in economic terms to reopen these lines and we should just get on with it. There are no physical constraints, just financial.”

But delegates were warned that the financial case must now become the focus of SELRAP’s attentions, including the production of a detailed breakdown of the engineering costs of reinstating the line.

There were also presentations from Adrian Shooter, chairman of Chiltern Railways, and Peter Frost, managing director of the Kilbride Group.

More than 200 local councils, a quarter of MPs and 45 per cent of UK MEPs have already pledged support for the campaign, together with hundreds of business organisations.