IN lieu of Chris Grayling’s repeated snubs of Yorkshire and the North, it would be disingenuous not to welcome the Transport Secretary’s official study into the feasibility of reopening the Skipton to Colne railway line that was closed in 1970.
It has been long argued by campaigners that the revival of this 12-mile route could transform the economic fortunes of the communities along the line and make it easier for people to travel between Yorkshire and Lancashire, and then make onward connections.
The potential benefits do not end here. Industry leaders suggest that this line could carry freight, thereby easing pressure on the existing TransPennine route which cannot meet passenger demand because it is already operating at capacity between Leeds and Manchester. In this regard, the proposal needs to be viewed in the widest possible economic and social context. The question, however, is whether the cost-benefit analysis will meet the Department for Transport’s strict criteria – this is the primary reason why infrastructure investment remains so heavily skewed in favour of London and the South East – and whether the DfT now intends to show greater pragmatism.
And the questions for Mr Grayling do not end here. Who has the final say – Transport for the North or the DfT? How will the scheme be funded if it is given the green light? And why isn’t the Transport Secretary assessing the reopening the Beverley to York line which could also be transformative for Yorkshire? Given his record thus far, he has a long way to go before he starts winning back all of the trust that he’s lost here in the past year.