A NEW study could pave the way for the reopening of a historic Lancashire to North Yorkshire rail line.

Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has announced a feasibility study considering the possibility and value of reopening the Skipton to Colne railway line.

The 12-mile route, which last ran in 1970, could create a faster rail route across the Pennines and allow new passenger services between Lancashire, Skipton and Leeds, connecting towns on the route to new jobs and education opportunities.

Mr Grayling announced the new study at Colne Railway Station while meeting with dozens of local rail campaigners and councillors from Barnoldswick, Colne and Earby, along with representatives of the local business community, and Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who invited the cabinet minister to his constituency.

During his visit, the Transport Secretary 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 that the line could provide.”

Mr Stephenson, who has been campaigning for the reopening of the historic rail line since he was elected eight years ago, said: “This study is our chance to demonstrate the business case for reopening the line, which I believe would provide a huge economic boost for Pendle and the wider region.”

Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, said “I am delighted with the Government’s announcement of a feasibility study into the value of reopening the Skipton to Colne railway.

“I pay tribute to all the campaigners and I look forward to working with my colleague, Andrew Stephenson MP, in helping to deliver the next stage of this railway line to the benefit of both our constituencies.”

The study, which is being co-commissioned by the Department for Transport and Transport for the North, is due to be completed later this year.

Cllr Paul Foxley, who is the chairman of Colne Town Council, said: “Colne suffers from being the end of the line, meaning our local rail services haven’t been invested in for years.

“Reopening the rail line through to Yorkshire therefore presents a significant opportunity for our area and would have a very positive economic impact on Colne.”

Earby Cllr Mike Goulthorp, who is also the chairman of the West Craven Area Committee, said: “Reopening this line would provide fast public transport to the rest of East Lancashire, Preston and Manchester, as well as to important nearby towns and cities such as Skipton, Leeds and Bradford.”

Colne shop owner Ash Sutcliffe, who owns the interior designer store Live Like the Boy, in Church Street, said: “The reopening would be a huge boost to Colne’s retail businesses opening up our amazing town to a whole new market of shopper.”

Pendle Central County Councillor Joe Cooney said: “This is an exciting announcement which brings us a step closer to unlocking the potential of the line."

"Andrew Stephenson MP deserves huge credit for securing this investment from the government.”