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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Rail back in the Dales
Vintage diesel train
Vintage diesel trains will be the first to run on the line
Regular train services are returning to Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales for the first time in almost half a century.

Friday sees the opening of a new stretch of track, with full scheduled services starting on Saturday.

The railway could eventually link the east coast main line with the Settle-to-Carlisle Pennines route 40 miles away.

It is being operated by the Wensleydale Railway Company which has raised 1.2m to provide a commercial service in an area where busy country roads are the only alternative means of transport.

The company is clear it is not the product of rail enthusiasts but a genuine commercial operation.

The 12 miles of revamped track can hardly offer a comprehensive service.

Stretch of track before work to extend the platform to meet it
Work was needed on the disused track

Initially it is likely to attract more tourists than locals, but could eventually provide a major link.

With maintenance costs just a fraction of those on busier routes, the Wensleydale railway could be looked on enviously by bigger but beleaguered commuter train operators.

Most services will be diesel-powered, although on Bank Holidays steam may also return.

Built in 1848, the railway largely ceased to operate in the 1950s with burgeoning car use.

Some of the track has been so rarely used - by the occasional freight train - that local people have adopted it as an unofficial footpath.

Local business

The company is taking a 99-year lease on the line, effectively making it one of the UK's longest rail franchises.

Scott Handley, the railway's chief executive, said: "Lots of people want to see the railway back in Wensleydale as they know it will make a difference to their lives.

When people visit Wensleydale at the moment they take their cars and don't spend as much as they might with local businesses.

"We know that by taking them by train, local firms will benefit."




SEE ALSO:
Dales to attract younger visitors
15 Jun 03  |  North Yorkshire
Low cost housing plan for Dales
28 May 03  |  North Yorkshire
Biking to the Dales by bus
18 May 03  |  West Yorkshire


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