RESEARCH has suggested a planned extension of the Wensleydale Railway further into the Dales could boost the local economy by £3.1m.
According to independent research by consultancy firm, Ove-Arup, extending the Wensleydale Railway by three miles from Redmire to Aysgarth will have a positive effect on employment and the local economy.
The firm estimates the benefit could be worth £3.1m on top of extra annual ticket sales of about £500,000.
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Since the railway re-opened in the 1990s, services have had to terminate in Redmire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. But Wensleydale Railway will use the figures to support applications for funding from commercial and public sector partners.
Ove-Arup’s report, which is a full revision of a 2009 study, was paid for in part by a grant of £5,000 from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.
Chairman of the park authority, Carl Lis, said he was glad the economic case for bringing the railway further into the park had been made so clear.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to the Wensleydale Railway coming back to the park, and I’m glad to see the economic case for it spelled out so clearly in this report.
“Re-instating the line to Aysgarth will be difficult, but it is achievable.
“There’s a lot of hard work ahead and my best wishes go to the railway’s management and volunteers.”
The Wensleydale Railway once linked the east and west coast mainlines by connecting Garsdale to Northallerton, but the line was gradually shut after the Second World War. It currently operates between Northallerton West and Redmire.
The line was extended to Northallerton in November 2014, when the station was reopened near Springwell Lane.
It was the reinstatement of a service that had been missing for more than 60 years, since the Wensleydale Railway lost its passenger service in 1954.
The Northallerton platform reopening also coincided with the restart of services from Scruton railway station, which has won awards for its restoration.
It was one of several wayside stations built by the North Eastern Railway on the Northallerton-Hawes branch line in the 1870s and fell into disrepair after 1954.
A team of volunteers spent 14 years restoring the station using traditional materials used in the Victorian building. Project manager David Walker, from the Wensleydale Railway Trust even researched the original paintwork using on the exterior of the building and then found a paint manufacturer who could replicate the colour.
It recently won the National Railway Heritage Award for Best Station Restoration and is becoming a tourist attraction in its own right.
More details about the Sustainable Development Fund can be found on the National Park Authority website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/sdf