Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has given his backing to plans that would revolutionise Pendle's road and rail network.
The senior Tory arrived at Colne Railway Station today to update local politicians on the feasibility of re-opening the Skipton to Colne railway line, and even building a bypass through Colne to 'break the bottleneck' of traffic.
Speaking to the Leader Times, Mr Grayling said that he was hopeful work could be done and that there was a strong case for a bypass in Colne.
He said: "Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson and I are looking at the local demand for a bypass that will benefit residents and businesses by breaking the congestion currently experienced in this area.
"There has been a lot of talk about rail improvements but roads are important too. The Government is putting a lot of extra money into building bypasses, and there is a strong case for one in Colne."
Asked when any work could begin, the Minister said that such infrastructure projects always take a number of years but added "if you never start, you never finish."
For many residents and businesses, though, the re-opening of the Skipton to Colne railway line has been a long-held dream, which may finally now become a reality. This will include a look into the freight and commercial demand for a new cross-Pennine route.
This follows the initial work that has been done by the feasibility study announced in February 2018 into the potential reopening of the historic Lancashire to North Yorkshire rail line.
The 12-mile route, which last ran in 1970, could create a faster rail route for potential new passenger services between East and central Lancashire towns with Skipton and Leeds, joining towns on the route to new jobs and education opportunities across the North of England.
Mr Grayling added: "I’m personally keen to see the reopening of the Colne to Skipton line. That’s why I thought it was important I come to Colne today to meet local representatives and affirm my commitment to finally establish the feasibility of the route. I know Andrew Stephenson has been working very hard on this scheme for years and I will do what I can to support him.”
Mr Stephenson described his colleague's visit as 'a huge boost' and pledged to work across Government to gain East to West connectivity.
Pendle Borough Council leader, Coun. Paul White, said: "Obviously it's great news that the Skipton to Colne line can technically be re-opened. I believe it will benefit business in the area because it will be a strategic route for freight across the North.
"It will also have a very positive impact on passengers in this area. Regards the bypass, I am very clear that for the sake of Pendle's economic development something has to happen. A huge amount of manufacturing is based in West Craven, and this would help to create better access to the motorway network.
“It is great to have the Secretary of State back in Colne. I’m pleased he is moving the study into reopening of the rail line to the next stage. I also took the opportunity to lobby the Secretary of State on the case for a Colne bypass and I will continue to ensure Pendle Council does all it can to make the case for a bypass.”
Vice chairman of Colne Town Council Ash Sutcliffe said: “Colne Town Council is currently developing its own Neighbouhood Plan and improved transport links are a key part of our plan. The reopening of the rail line and a bypass would be hugely beneficial to Colne business and residents alike.”
Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Lancashire County Coun. Michael Green commented: “There is a real economic benefit to the whole of East Lancashire if we can reopen the line and find a suitable route for a possible Colne and village bypass. It is important we continue to build a case for both with equal vigour.
"In order to grow the economy across the North of England, it is important to have improved road and rail links, east to west, which is what we are constantly promoting.”