A northern rail link unused for more than 40 years could be reopened after the transport secretary launched a feasibility study on its economic benefits.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced the study into the reopening of the 12-mile line between Skipton in north Yorkshire and Colne in east Lancashire on Saturday. The line was last used in the 1970s.
Campaigners said the line is a key freight route and is also crucial to unlocking the economic potential of the area by making it easier for people to access work and education across the Pennines. The link would reduce the travel time from Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire to the Port of Liverpool from up to nine hours to less than three.
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 link across the Pennines 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 and that the line could provide.”
The study is being co-commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for the North (TfN), which identified the central Pennines corridor as an area for development in it’s draft strategic transport report published last month.
TfN’s chief executive Barry White said: “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.
“This supports our vision of a thriving North of England where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.”
Drax Power chief executive Andy Koss said: “Reopening the Skipton to Colne route to rail freight as well as passenger travel would have a significant impact for business across the north of England, slashing travel times and increasing productivity in the process.”
“As a nation we can benefit from a fast, efficient railway that allows more free movement of goods between manufacturers, their distribution hubs and their markets across the north of England and beyond”, he said.