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Railways (Skipton)

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2003

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What recent assessment he has made of the viability and desirability of reopening the (a) Skipton to Colne and (b) Skipton to Grassington railways. [112576]

The Strategic Rail Authority has set out its current plans for the development of the rail network in its strategic plan, which was published in January. Those do not include reopening the Skipton to Colne line or opening the Skipton to Grassington line for passenger services.

That is very disappointing. Why does calling for the reopening of an old railway line appear eccentric, while calling for a new road, as my misguided hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) has done, is okay? Will the Minister accept that now that the Countryside Agency is calling for the reopening of those two lines we ought to press ahead and get trains running on them? The Yorkshire Dales national park is out of bounds to thousands of people without access to a car. If these railways were reopened, that would introduce the countryside to the thousands of my constituents who have never been there.

I recognise my hon. Friend's concern, and the Government recognise that there is great value in reopening railway lines when that is appropriate. However, he will appreciate that for both these lines—in particular, the Skipton to Colne line that is currently not in use—it is a matter for those locally, and for the local authority in particular, to formulate a plan and make it known to the SRA, so that we can implement it. As he knows, the SRA is currently holding discussions to gauge interest in reopening the line in the longer term, but it has no plans at present to do so. If local authorities come up with a plan for the Skipton to Grassington line, it can be looked at carefully to meet the ambitions of my hon. Friend and his constituents.

The House will note that I have only managed to get to question 10 on the Order Paper. That was because questions and answers were far too long. We have an obligation to get through the Order Paper, as that is only fair to those who have taken the bother to table questions. I look forward to shorter questions, and of course shorter answers, at the next Transport questions.