THE BRADFORD district's world-famous steam heritage railway could become a major transport hub and commuter route as part of a £5 million scheme.

Upgraded signalling would enable more services to be run on the five-mile Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, which links Keighley and Oxenhope via Haworth.

And the railway's fleet of diesel multiple units would be overhauled, with a dedicated storage and maintenance facility being created.

The ambitious project is among a £19 million package of Keighley bids for levelling-up funding being submitted to the Government by Bradford Council.

Dr Matt Stroh – chair of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway – says that if approved, the funds would be "game changing" for the volunteer-run rail operation.

He added: "With changing passenger expectations and demands, and increasing pressure on coal supplies, we are looking for ways to increase the operational flexibility of the line.

"The levelling-up bid is focused on providing that flexibility, through upgrading the signalling at Keighley and Haworth – allowing us to run more trains – and restoring and maintaining our diesel multiple unit fleet by creating a bespoke facility on the brownfield site at the former Great Northern junction. The units are historic in their own right – being able to open a maintenance facility, complete with both road and rail access, and overhaul the entire fleet would be a great step forward for the railway.

"The game-changing levelling-up funding would provide the foundation for the railway’s second half-century of operation, by increasing flexibility and opening many possibilities for the future – including being able to respond to local demand for an increased service between Oxenhope and Keighley."

Other funding bids being submitted by the council include for a Keighley College and Bradford University advanced manufacturing hub, and to clear and upgrade six brownfield sites around business development zones in Dalton Lane and Royd Ings Avenue.

'Advanced robotics centre' planned for Keighley if funding bid is successful

Bradford Council leader, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, says: "Keighley remains a great place for businesses to grow and invest. We have invested significant time and money in the levelling-up bid to make sure it is competitive when the Government judges it nationally.

"Our ambitious bid for Keighley includes a range of recession-busting projects which if supported by the Government will make a significant difference to the area.

"Working with education partners, we plan to drive high skilled, highly paid local jobs at a new reconfigured and expanded Keighley College and Bradford University advanced manufacturing hub which will specialise in emerging technologies such as advanced robotics.

"We’ve also put in a bid to partner with private developers to clear and upgrade six Keighley brownfield sites producing a huge area of prime business space, with the potential to host over 700 local jobs.

"The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is a wonderful asset to the district and we all know how much time and effort volunteers have put in over the years to make it so.

"We’re therefore putting forward this proposal to the Government which we think could transform it into an enhanced rail transport hub offering workers a fast and efficient commute into the town.

"This includes boosting capacity and improving the rolling stock to produce a quick, comfortable and reliable link between Keighley and Oxenhope.

"We want the Government to recognise the potential and invest in Keighley."

The result of the bids will be known in the autumn.