'All we want for Christmas is the Skipton-Colne railway'

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A commitment to reopening the rail line between Skipton and Colne is all campaigners want for Christmas, a Yorkshire MP has claimed.

John Grogan, MP for Keighley, made the call for the Department for Transport (DfT) to promise to reopen the line before the New Year during a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday.

Keighley MP John Grogan. Photo: JPI Media

Keighley MP John Grogan. Photo: JPI Media

A study finished in 2018 found it would be feasible to re-open the line and ever since campaigners have worked to get the 12-mile stretch back in use.

But Mr Grogan said yesterday: “I’m surprised given that it’s two years now since the feasibility study was announced that more rapid progress hasn’t been reached.”

He said: “I do think now we generally do need to advance this cause more rapidly. The potential to implement this scheme speedily is something that no other TransPennine option has.”

And he said, as the line was first opened in 1848, he would like it reopened by its 175th anniversary.

He said: “Certainly I think by it’s 175th anniversary in 2023 we should have the line, we should commit today to have that line being built to celebrate that 175th anniversary because unlike other lines which potentially could take freight across the Pennines, it has a relatively short term horizon.”

He added: “Economic growth arguments have been well made but they apply equally to across the Pennines in Yorkshire, it would be a massive economic boost if people from my constituency in Keighley could commute to Manchester, could have the option not just of Leeds and Bradford but of Manchester, holiday traffic to Manchester Airport potentially as well. So it could be a great economic boost to Yorkshire as well as to Lancashire.”

But he said campaigners felt the scheme was not a priority, and some had suggested ministers were kicking the can down the road until a General Election.

He added: “But what we want for Christmas above all is Skipton-Colne, the go ahead by the New Year.”

MP for York Central Rachael Maskell said the issue was “about the future economy of the whole of the North”.

Then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling committed to re-opening the line but disagreements over whether the line could be used for freight and a counter-campaign group in Earby have stilted plans.