THE re-opening of a key trans-Pennine rail link between East Lancashire and Yorkshire has come a step closer.

Department of Transport officials have moved the project to reinstate the Colne to Skipton link from ‘decision to initiate’ to the ‘develop’ stage of the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline.

The news has been welcomed by Hyndburn Conservative MP Sara Britcliffe as a boost for East Lancashire connectivity.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris told her in a letter last week: “I am pleased to confirm that we have asked officials to bring forward specifics proposals for our approval on further ‘Develop’ stage work on both the reinstatement of the rail link between Skipton and Colne, primarily as a passenger route, and enhancement of gauge and capacity for rail freight on existing trans-Pennine routes including the route via Accrington and Copy Pit.

“The next stage of work on the Skipton-Colne link would focus on establishing if the capital costs can be very substantially reduced and reviewing the passenger demand forecasts and service options.

“My officials are also aware of the emerging proposals fora new rail freight terminal at the Huncoat Power Station near Accrington and the significant benefits this could bring to the local area and freight customers.”

Miss Britcliffe said: “I’m very excited that the government are moving forward with proposals to reinstate the Skipton to Colne railway line. It is also great news that the freight terminal is being considered at the same time.

“Skipton to Colne would provide a great connection between East Lancashire and Yorkshire.

"The line would open a new commuter route providing business opportunities across the two counties,” she added.

Pendle Liberal Democrat Lord Tony Greaves said: “The letter is a bit hesitant but it’s a step forward.”

Andy Shackleton, communications officer for the Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership said: “This has been something SELRAP has been aiming for for many years. We are tremendously excited and look forward to further progress.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: "I am delighted that the reopening of the Colne-Skipton line has taken a step forward.”