Bringing back the Missing Link

I am currently jobless, and in my newfound shirker state I have a lot of time to surf between bouts of job hunting. I found that where I live, IT jobs are a bit thin on the ground. As the days turned into weeks, I found my ideas of what was an acceptable commuting radius getting larger and larger.

One potential job required a 45 minute journey (jams not included) between the east and west of England, and begrudgingly, I applied. But one thing stood out at me when I was checking Google Maps to see its location - you can make out the path of a disused rail line between Colne in Lancashire and Skipton in North Yorkshire. If the track was there, it would connect the east and west with another line and would thus make such commuting for work or anything else much more practical.

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Interest piqued, I did a little search for some more information on this old line. Turns out it was torn up nearly 40 years ago, when British Rail tried to make some major cutbacks. They cut out over 11 miles of rail, leaving the new track-end at Colne shrivelled and obsolete, devoid of reasons for people to visit. Backpackers, walkers, passing tourists and commuting employees disappeared, and local economies on the old line died.

But there has been a group of people working to get the line put back down again. SELRAP have reached a pretty advanced stage of persuading those with the power to sign the chequebook, getting support from MPs, tourism boards and other people in influential positions, and have for the past two years arranged for a Skipton-Colne train ride to highlight the current daftness of the situation. The train travels from Skipton to Leeds, then back to Colne via Hebden Bridge, a trip of 100 miles and a mere 2 and a half hours.

If the line, nicknamed the 'missing link' was reinstated, the trip would take 15 minutes, with the added benefits of removing hundreds of cars off the road that runs by it, the rail passage through a beautiful scenic countryside and the re-injection of commerce and business to a long-forgotten route. Reinstating it would be relatively cheap, since the track bed is still mostly intact and it would only require the relatively minor work of relaying the track itself and building a couple of bridges/level crossings, far less than creating a new line from scratch. Several economic models have been studied, and all show that it would pay for itself within a few years.

Though my motivations were purely to help me get to my potential place of work, it was quite an eye-opener. I hadn't considered that the countries' railways had been so degraded now from how they used to be not so long ago. Further searches reveal other 'missing links', and the grass-roots activists lobbying for them to be implemented (or re-laid). Many such appeals have been active for many years, and initial economic models dismissed many of them as impractical. With the increasing amount of cars on the road, and the environmental considerations now shift the balance of the argument in their favour with every passing year.

Someone has helped further raise the profile of the Colne-Skipton cause by setting up a downing street petition to have it rebuilt, and at the time of writing is a little shy of a thousand signatures. If you agree with the prospect of this line being reinstated please click here to add your name to the list. It's free!

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