NEW talks could be held about expanding rail links between the Yorkshire Dales, Clitheroe and Manchester after the government cancelled the northern leg of the HS2 project but promised to support other transport schemes.

Potential improvements around Hellifield railway station were discussed at a meeting of Ribble Valley Council with a view to boosting Ribble Valley train services to the north and south using the junction where rail lines meet from Lancashire and Yorkshire on the Settle-Carlisle route. 

Councillor Stephen Atkinson said to members of the full council: “In the summer, myself and Nicola Hopkins, the council’s director of economic development and planning, and others had a meeting about Hellifield station.  It included government transport minister Huw Merriman’s adviser,  Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans and representatives of Lancashire County Council and North Yorkshire Council.

“The purpose was to show how the restoration of regular trains at Hellifield could benefit the Ribble Valley and east Lancashire. This would improve education and employment opportunities, support inward migration and the retention of young people, and support access to the Yorkshire Dales, Manchester and Clitheroe.”

Cllr Atkinson added: “I have suggested another meeting and we have recently had the announcement from the Prime Minister, regarding the railway network.”

At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the HS2 link to Manchester was being scrapped. Instead,  £36 billion would be redirected into other transport projects, he said.

Mr Sunak announced a new ‘Northern Network’ and outlined ambitions including a new Bradford rail station and fast links to Manchester, better rail links between Manchester and Liverpool, and better east-west rail links across the north. 

Earlier this year at Ribble Valley Council, councillors discussed their support for a study linked to Northern Trains into future train services.  Research had suggested more Ribble Valley train links north and south to the Settle-Carlisle line and Manchester could create an extra 80,000 passenger journeys a year.

Currently, regular Northern trains run on the Settle-Carlisle line to Skipton and Leeds. These include morning and evening commuter services, and weekend services popular with visitors to the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria.

Elsewhere, SELRAP'S (Skipton East Lancashire Railway Action Partnership) campaign to build a new railway along the old route between Colne and Skipton, for fast links to Leeds says new services would bring big many benefits to boroughs.

East Lancashire house values, job prospects, investment, education and leisure would all benefit, campaigners say. Earby would also see a new station, under their ideas.