Transport planner JMP has been commissioned by the Yorkshire Dales Railway Museum Trust (YDRMT) to establish the benefits to be gained from reconnecting the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway to the main line network at Skipton.
The railway currently operates a heritage service for more than 100,000 visitors and tourists a year from Embsay to Bolton Abbey, which is a popular visitor attraction some 20 miles north west of Leeds and a gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Embsay station is adjacent to the existing Swinden Quarry to Skipton freight line and a Network Rail study in 2008 confirmed the feasibility of reconnecting the two lines, which would enable a direct service from Skipton Station to Bolton Abbey to operate.
Linking Bolton Abbey and the Yorkshire Dales directly into the national rail network at Skipton would potentially offer opportunities for more sustainable access to the area from a wide range of locations in Yorkshire, North Lancashire and beyond. Added to that, Skipton lies on the internationally renowned Leeds-Settle-Carlisle route and could attract visitors from further afield.
The railway, supported by stakeholders Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, North Yorkshire County Council, Craven District Council and Yorkshire Forward, wants JMP to identify and quantify the benefits that would be derived from reconnection.
Railway business manager, Stephen Walker, said that the Network Rail study had indicated that the cost of reconnection would be in the region of £1.1m to £2.6m, depending upon the technical solution adopted.
He has noted that YDRMT had a successful history of developing projects of a similar scale andwould be able to make significant “in-kind” contributions, which would reduce the overall cost.
Andy Ryland of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority believes that there is a real potential here that in the longer term the scheme could open up the opportunity to provide a new station at Swinden Quarry close to the popular visitor destination of Grassington, which would provide even better access to the National Park, without the need to arrive there by car.
JMP project director, Dr Alan Beswick, said that the route has regional visitor attractions at both ends and the potential to carry more of the visitors to the area by rail could help to deal with car parking problems in places such as Skipton.
But the study will be looking at more than just traffic congestion and accident savings. Social inclusion benefits from opening up the National Park to people without access to a car, the direct and indirect economic benefits of additional visitor spending in the area and other economic, environmental and social impacts would be considered as part of the work.
JMP is due to report in the summer.