PARISH councillors in the Worth Valley were asked to support the early stages of plans for a major expansion of the Great Northern Railway Trail.

Jeff McQuillan, speaking at a meeting of Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council, outlined ambitious proposals to extend this trail to enable to connect up Keighley, Halifax and Bradford.

He also showed councillors a short film highlighting the benefits of the scheme.

Mr McQuillan, a volunteer who chairs the group responsible for the trail, explained: “As a group we began 17 years ago to save railway heritage – including Hewenden, Thornton and Cullingworth viaducts – by creating a cycling and walking trail.

“We now want to link Bradford up with Keighley and Halifax, as well as the smaller communities in between, using as much of the former Great Northern Railway as possible.

“We’ve worked with Bradford Council and the national sustainable transport charity Sustrans on building sections of the trail at Cullingworth and between Thornton and Queensbury.

“We have a lot of experience and expertise and what’s appealing about this trail is that it’s offroad and makes it easy and safe for people to get into the open countryside.”

He said the route would not only be suitable for leisure cyclists of all ages, but could have potential for people using it as a way of getting to work.

“It isn’t a priority now for Bradford Council, before of funding cutbacks, but we feel it’s important that the trail isn’t lost and that we keep up the momentum.

“There is an opportunity for parish and town councils to come together to support a section of the planned route from Keighley to Denholme.

“It’s not just about money, it’s also about there being the political will in place.”

Mr McQuillan, who used to be a senior Bradford Council planning officer, said he would like a partnership to be up and running by the end of summer to help drive the project forward.

He reminded councillors of ongoing work by the Queensbury Tunnel Society, a separate group which is working to restore this particular part of the former railway route to help link the trail to Halifax.

Councillors Sarah Garner and Peter Clarke both expressed their support for the concept.

Cllr Clarke said: “What the Great Northern Railway Trail has achieved so far has been fantastic.”

Responding to a question from Cllr Garner, Mr McQuillan noted that as yet there is no map detailing the exact route the expanded trail will follow.

He emphasised: “The main thing is to get everyone to back this, without any obligations from them. Then we can see how we can progress things further.

“This is the first step of what I think could be a very happy and success partnership.”