A RESIDENTS’ association is asking to be kept in the loop as talks to reinstate the defunct railway line between Colne and Skipton continue.

Earby and District Residents’ Association was formed this year and is aiming to quash rumours it is an anti-rail group and to highlight concerns on the impact the line would have on residents.

The railway line between Colne and Skipton was closed because it was unviable in 1970 and much of the old route the line took is now footpaths and a wildlife corridor. A number of roads and bridges have also been built over the old line and Earby’s railway station was demolished.

“I joined to make sure the local people are heard and their concerns listened to,” said Earby resident Nick Tofalos. “There are several options for the route the railway would take around or through Earby. We want that to be explored to minimise impact and maximise benefits for local people”

Association chairman Duncan Reynolds added: “It’s excellent that Transport for the North announced £70 billion is to be spent on upgrading roads and railways. If that happens and is done in the right way it will be fantastic for the northern economy, however, we need to make sure that people whose homes and businesses are directly affected by the proposed routes are kept fully informed, properly consulted and their concerns addressed.”

“People seem to think the old track is simply going to be reinstated and we’ll have access to a nice passenger service,” said Mr Reynolds.

“But the reality is that to justify reopening the line at a cost of £800 million, as stated by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson and Transport Minister Chris Grayling, it must be commercially viable.

“This means that potentially it will be carrying huge freight trains 24 hours a day. In the Earby area alone 700 properties will be affected by noise, damaging vibration or both. Not to mention homes all the way along the dual line in both directions.”

Members of the residents’ association have been in correspondence with local councillors and Mr Stephenson. Some residents have already met with their MP to voice their concerns, and a further meeting is planned for the end of June, when they and Mr Stephenson will be walking along the old railway line from Sough through Earby to discuss impacts on the local community, should the line be reinstated along the original track bed.

Mr Stephenson said: “I have met with a number of Earby residents and will be doing so again soon to hear what they have to say.

“Whilst I strongly support the rail line being re-opened, I am also very clear this must be done in a way that avoids unacceptable impacts on local residents. The proposed re-opening is currently undergoing further study. If this proves positive then there will be widespread public consultation and things like route and station options will be considered. Understandably, residents who could potentially be affected have concerns and it is vitally important these are taken into account.”

The association says freight trains from Peel Port, in addition to Drax biomass trains, are expected to run on the route from Liverpool to Leeds, including Colne to Skipton, and will be travelling along the line six days a week. Drax trains are about a quarter of a mile in length, comprising 23 carriages, each 18 metres long and with a capacity of 116 cubic metres. The trains will run at an average speed of 60mph. With anticipated passenger trains every half hour, there will be at a minimum of six trains per hour along the proposed route.

Residents are also concerned about the impact on wildlife and fauna along the existing trackbed should the proposed line follow the original route. Bats, birds of prey and small mammals are regular visitors to the area, and will be lost to this location if the line is reopened.

Public and private sector transport body, Transport for the North, applied for £70 billion to fund its strategic transport plan for the north of England over the next 20 years and money for the Skipton to Colne line would could from that if it is given the go-ahead.

Work on the Skipton to Colne line has been mooted at the first stage of consultation as ‘viable’ but it will be autumn before the second report emerges and reveals if any progress has been made.

The Skipton and East Lancs Rail Action Partnership (SELRAP), formed in 2001 to protect the former

railway trackbed between Skipton and Colne from any development.

It is pushing forward with the project and says that as the Airedale line service is one of the busiest and most successful in northern England, it makes little sense to stop the service at Skipton and that extending it towards Colne would provide a faster route for commuters travelling in either direction towards Leeds or Manchester.

SELRAP member David Walsh said: “We will have to wait for the second report in autumn, but in the meantime we will continue our campaigning.”