BOSSES of a steam heritage railway have described as "a game-changer" a £1 million grant towards the cost of rebuilding a bridge.

The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway has been awarded the cash from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund.

It will help pay for the renewal of bridge 27, which carries the line over Bridgehouse Beck.

Dr Matt Stroh, chair of the railway, says the structure is vital to the ongoing operation of the five-mile line.

And he voiced his delight at the grant.

"This funding is a financial game-changer for the railway," said Dr Stroh.

"It means we can press on with the largest and most expensive civil maintenance project we've undertaken since the preservation society reopened the line back in 1968, safe in the knowledge that we're able to invest in the programme of locomotive overhauls and other capital projects necessary to keep the railway running."

The original bridge was built in 1867, and the current one as part of a reconstruction in 1889.

The bridge actually comprises two separate structures, but both share the same abutments and pier.

Dr Stroh adds: "Development work has been ongoing for about a decade, with the initial plans to renew the bridge like for like.

"After several flooding incidents, contributed to by restrictions in the river around bridge 27, the team began to look at an option to build a longer span to remove the need for the central pier and improve the beck flow.

"Sub-contractors will be used for a reasonable amount of the work, but it's worth noting that the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway will be delivering this project as the main contractor with our own qualified team of volunteers.

"The successful grant application process was led by volunteers in the fundraising team, working closely with the civil maintenance volunteers leading the project."

The main bridge renewal scheme is scheduled to take place in September next year, following on from a programme of preparatory work.

The grant is welcomed by Keighley MP Robbie Moore.

He says: "So much planning and hard work went into the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway’s bid for funding and I was so proud to champion it with ministers at the Department for Levelling Up and Communities and in Parliament.

"This Government funding is another huge win for Keighley and the iconic railway, which contributes more than £15 million per year to our area."