Imminent threat to railway trackbed in Wensleydale, Yorkshire

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Facts in brief

Two different interests are currently clashing in the Yorkshire Dales National Park: 18 miles of disused railway track have long been preserved. On the one hand, there is now an intention to convert 6 miles into a “multi-user route”, but on the other hand, this would prevent the railway from being re-opened in the future to cope with tourism flows in the National Park. The Upper Wensleydale Railway group is currently investigating the feasibility of a restoration route between Garsdale and Hawes in Upper Wensleydale, North Yorkshire (UK).

Text in detail

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) in the north of England is the planning authority for a large rural area of the Yorkshire Dales. The Authority has a longstanding policy commitment to protect 18 miles of railway trackbed in Wensleydale (closed 60 years ago) from development that would prevent future re-instatement of the railway.

6 miles (of the 18) are under imminent threat of ‘development’ as the YDNPA are now proposing that it should be used for a Multi-User-Route (MUR) for horseriders, cyclists, walkers and people using disability wheelchairs. The YDNPA is also carrying out an online survey to assess public support for the MUR.  (The railway was formerly a single line so there is not the width for both options).  

Supporters of retaining planning protection for the trackbed – which runs through farmland and heather moorland – say that the 6 mile section (between the market town of Hawes and Garsdale station on the Settle-Carlisle railway) is critical to future reinstatement of the railway – which the YDNPA has, until now, protected.  In turn, reinstatement would help address the environmental challenge of millions of day and staying visitors to the area, by providing improvements in public transport and car-free access to this part of the National Park. Wider strategic network connections would add well-known economic and social benefits.

Meanwhile the issues of fossil fuels, climate change, car ownership – and the urgent need for modal shift – are in the public eye as never before.

Aspirations of the proposers of reinstatement of the railway, with photographs and the historic background, are set out on the website www.upperwensleydalerailway.org.uk 

Ruth Annison

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