Latest Rail News


Grayling consults on plans to reopen historic northern line

The transport secretary has this week revealed plans to complete a feasibility study on reopening the Skipton-Colne line, closed in 1970.

Chris Grayling said the line had the potential to deliver a “vital connection” between Lancashire and Yorkshire, boosting economic and business opportunities in the north of England.

The move is part of the wider Northern Powerhouse plans and is backed by Transport for the North (TfN), which is attempting to improve connectivity in its Central Pennines corridor.

The line was first opened in 1848 and, although it was not listed for closure as part of the 1960s Beeching cuts, it was shut down in 1970 and has remained disused.

TfN chief executive, Barry White, said: “We are delighted that the Department for Transport has committed to exploring the possibility of reopening the railway line between Skipton and Colne.

“We will now work with the Department, taking note of previous work undertaken, to produce a cost and economic benefit study for re-opening the line.”

In its recent Strategic Transport Plan, TfN pointed out the Central Pennines area as a key geographical location to be listed as one of its seven corridors for growth. White has said opening up the line between Skipton and Colne again would likely be beneficial to this plan for both passengers and freight.

Following his announcement of the feasibility study, Grayling commented: “The historic line between Skipton and Colne could deliver a vital connection between the North-West and North-East, generating a vital cross-Pennine link 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.”

Rail North, which is planned to merge with TfN from April this year, intends to commission further work looking at the potential for other re-openings across the north of England.

TfN released its landmark transport strategy last month, including plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) a new network connecting six major cities.

The £70bn plan concentrates heavily on linking northern hubs with HS2, although some commentators have levelled criticism at the government for not giving enough power to the body, which still does not have the authority to generate its own income and relies on central grants.

Top image: David Mirzoeff PA Wire

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here


Jimbo   08/02/2018 at 13:46

Another click-bait headline - Grayling has announced yet another feasibility study, which may, at some time in the unspecified future, might lead to reopening the line. More likely, this study will lead to another study, which will lead to another study... This is a cheap political trick - get some political capital by announcing something that seems like progress, but actually means nothing will happen for a while. By the time an actual funding decision needs to be made, Grayling will have moved on to another government role or even a change of government.

Frankh   08/02/2018 at 15:05

Totally agree Jimbo, nothing will come of it.

David D   08/02/2018 at 17:35

I am really not sure that this will be a worthwhile project. If the mooted Leeds-Bradford-Manchester line via the Pennine Base Tunnel goes ahead, this line will be redundant .

Andrew Gwilt   08/02/2018 at 19:50

Thought that he was referring to the London Underground Northern Line or Merseyrail Northern Line.

Boris   08/02/2018 at 23:36

Well Andrew. Since you "don't do research".

APT(E)   09/02/2018 at 07:43

Why bother with research when demonstrating your ignorance requires so little effort.......

P Evans   09/02/2018 at 08:42

Perhaps a new 'bi-mode' technology can be developed as the line is rebuilt ,where as they realise the costs are becoming too high the train somehow morphes into a bus for the remainder of the journey, with the minister happily celebrating this new technology negates the need for a full railway?

Noam Bleicher   09/02/2018 at 10:31

David - if the politicians keep their promises the next twenty years will prove to be a disruptive time across the Pennines as new lines are built and connected to existing ones, and existing ones upgraded. This is precisely the time we will need quick-fix diversionary alternatives like Skipton-Colne!

Andrew Gwilt   09/02/2018 at 10:49

Boris. Shut up please. I can do research but I don’t want to research every time. *eyes rolling*

Samir   09/02/2018 at 12:10

Why does half brain Grayling still have a job? He is wholly incompetent, having just another review of a single track. There needs to be a review of all closed lines in the north, the opening of which would make HS3 superfluous because the increased capacity would make travel so much easier and would drastically reduce congestion because everyone has a car because there are no branch lines - a problem HS2 and 3 will not solve at all

Sandy   09/02/2018 at 12:22

Is this the replacement for HS3? Any Trans-Penninie Tunnel will take a generation to plan & build and cost 3x budget - and be late. Vehicular transport will have changed completely by the time it would be finished. Look at how the use of the M62 has changed since 1974. Now is the time to take the bull by the horns and invest in hydrogen trains, removing the need to enlarge tunnels to accomodate catenaries or use inefficient bimodal traction units. Why are we trying to get to where Europe was 40 years ago? Leapfrog wiring and move ahead!

Henry Law   09/02/2018 at 13:31

Whatever Grayling does will be denounced as no good. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

JPG   09/02/2018 at 13:39

I wonder if anything will be done on Graylings watch. All he seems to have done is announce feasibility studies on reopening lines. His major effort so far is cancelling electrification projects or postponing the start (till next cancellation of planned schemes).Plus de scoping Oxford /Cambridge which must have been one of the easiest projects no trains gives the contractor easy planning to do the job to achieve a first class infrastructure (as done in most of Europe). I nearly forgot helping out the fat cats on East Coast. Do i need to go on ?

Nonsuchmike   09/02/2018 at 13:42

Words are cheap. But if this announcement is actioned promptly it could be a saving grace for Grayling whose track record in any Government office he has held is extremely poor. Rebuilding this section with re-alignments can re-invigorate communities in that part of Lancashire & West Yorkshire as well as provide alternative routes over longer distances to the NE and N. Wales. So, despite my misgivings about the current Minister, I am all for this improvement in connectivity, urging local rail user groups to get behind a cohesive action plan to see that these proposals are turned into reality PDQ.

Andrue Wilt   09/02/2018 at 14:43

If this line was electrified at 25kv ac the Class 333 trains could be extended to Colne. Otherwise the line could be operated with Class 150s from Burnley to Skipton.

Dr.Peter Long   09/02/2018 at 15:53

the assessment of the route must also cover social and environment factors---economic alone is totally inadequate for the dft.

Ian Moore   09/02/2018 at 16:38

I would like to suggest that the main justification for Skipton - Colne is local, in particular linking the economically depressed Burnley - Colne area with the relatively more dynamic Skipton and offering access to jobs in Leeds and Bradford. Both ends of the line would benefit economically and local road traffic levels would reduce. Perhaps a parallel is high unemployment persisting in the Welsh Valleys despite employment opportunities in Cardiff; the time and cost to commute is too great. I would also like to suggest that a new HS3 via Bradford would create benefits through cuts in journey times that would not be achieved through reopening local lines like this.

Graham Nalty   09/02/2018 at 18:21

Great news that a useful line is being progressed for re-opening. And good news that Rail North is looking at other opportunities that will link major towns and cities between which the current journey time is too slow. But lets get on with it and build the lines.

Chris Burton   09/02/2018 at 18:35

agreed, Graham: this splendid positive news whatever the timescale. This reopening has been actively campaigned for at least two decades with clear unequivocal arguments, so well done them (and I live nowhere near I might add). As for Chris Grayling, whatever his politics he is absolutely no idiot so abuse of any him, or any any politician for that matter, is pointlessly offensive.

Jpg   09/02/2018 at 19:22

Criticism of Grayling tactics well I will add on from were I left off . How can you cancel electrification to do Bi Mode when on Gwr it's was going to cost £1m to finish the original planned scheme . But all he did was transfer the cost to GwR in leasing .I'm led to believe the actual cost increase in the leasing and running costs for the bi mode alterations is £2m . As it's over time not up front costs it's all hidden by Grayling

Jpg   09/02/2018 at 20:45

Sorry predictive text it should read £1bm and £ 2bm

Jak Jay   10/02/2018 at 09:28

Does anyone take any notice of 'Mr Smirky'? surprised he hasnt mooted re-opening the Woodhead route!

Philipat84   10/02/2018 at 12:04

The issue here is the A56 road between the two locations where an upgrade will enable access to certain development sites. A study on the alternative rail route will need to meet DfT Wegtag criteria. This will not be easy with many bridges to reconstruct and little perceived local rail traffic. The rail study will produce fewer net benefits than the cost of additional road roundabouts so the planners and developers will ignore the rail route unless they can build on some of it. Twenty years time - road construction cost over-runs, more pollution, more congestion. Grayling et al will be history by then.

Add your comment

Rail industry Focus

View all News


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

'the sleepers' blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he would not rule out his organisation issuing future r... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of... more >