A new survey has found overwhelming public support for reconnecting Otley to the national rail network.

Businessman Glenn Broadwell interviewed 350 residents about the issue and discovered 92 per cent wanted the town to have its own railway station.

Mr Broadwell, who believes a rail link would substantially boost the area’s economy, is now calling on politicians, regional development agencies and the Government to make the idea a reality.

He said: “Otley and its surrounding areas are some of the most beautiful and desirable places to live in Leeds, but with desirability comes an increase in the number of people wanting to live here and a greater need for modem transport links.

“We urge local councillors, MPs and development agencies like Yorkshire Forward to invest in our beautiful market town.”

Mr Broadwell, director of Belvoir Letting Agency on Boroughgate, decided to carry out the poll because customers looking for properties in the area kept asking him if Otley had a train station.

That persuaded him to dry to drum up support for the re-opening of the line. Otley’s railway station was opened as a joint venture between the North Eastern Railway and the Midland Railway in 1865, and closed in 1965.

He said: “The old railway line still exists, so what is stopping us re-opening it once again – Why not?

“In today’s challenging economic climate the small business, the local people and, of course, our famous Otley market would benefit from better and more environ-mentally friendly transport links.

“Buses and park and ride schemes are effective for short-term measures but there is a need here to invest for our children and look to the future.”

Otley resident Michael Jordon is among those backing the call. He said: “I vote wholeheartedly for a railway station. At the moment it can take over an hour-and-a- half to get back from Leeds on the bus. It only takes 20 minutes to get back to Ilkley from Leeds on the train.”

Otley and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce president Christopher Little said he was not surprised by the findings, as there would be many benefits in re-establishing a rail link.

But he fears there are too many practical obstacles. He said: “It would help everything in the town but it would be very complicated, because they’ve built the bypass on the railway line now.

“The only way they could do it would be to link it with Pool and Arthington and the technical problems would be colossal.

“It would also take substantial investment and I don’t think the Government is in a position to pay at the moment. It’s a lovely idea, but I can’t see it happening in the near future.”

Town mayor Councillor Jim Spencer, Chairman of Otley Rail Link Action Group (Orlag), shares that scepticism – and it is based on bitter experience.

Orlag launched a campaign to restore Otley’s rail link back in 2002, and went on to lobby councils, MPs and the Government, but ultimately to no avail.

“Unless there is a serious turnaround in Government policy over funding for railways this, unfortunately, just isn’t going to happen,” said Coun Spencer Undeterred, Mr Broadwell is collecting signatures for a petition calling for an Otley rail link that he will present to Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland.

Mr Mulholland said: “With the need to get people on to public transport and attract people to the town, we should seriously look at possibilities for restoring a rail link to Otley.

“The Government must also push on now with plans to make the Leeds-Harrogate-York line a tram-train line. This could also involve re-opening Arthington station. Then we could look at how best to link Otley, whether to the Harrogate line or the Ilkley line. The sad truth, however, is that this Government has done precious little to improve public transport in the last eleven years. It is time for a real commitment to public transport.”