AT best it would be misguided, and at worst alarmist, to draw comparisons between the Wensleydale railway and its neighbour in Weardale, which went into administration earlier this year with cash flow problems despite having had large sums of public money thrown at it.

The contrast lies in the fact that the Wensleydale operation can never be accused of having been a burden on the public purse. Rightly or wrongly, it has never sought subsidies for its ambitious plan to restore timetabled passenger services on a 22-mile railway backwater which had been in danger of rotting away while traffic choked the parallel A684.

The only public funding it has received has been that subscribed in shares and donations by supporters.

Wensleydale and Weardale may be completely different in outlook and aspirations, but both have one thing in common: the need to address a business plan. The fact that the Wensleydale Railway Association, the support group for the separate public company responsible for the daily train services, has seen fit to launch an emergency appeal among members for £100,000 by the end of July says much about the risks involved in running such a project on the relatively informal basis adopted so far.

But people can only give so much and we have yet to learn what, if any, corresponding action will be taken by the operational arm, Wensleydale Railway, which has its own shareholders.

Some costs, including insurance and rent to Network Rail, are said to be beyond the control of the train operator but efforts to reduce them must continue. However, the most important immediate objective must be expansion of operations.

It appears that the only means by which the operation can now be made to pay its way is by establishing a link with the main line at Northallerton, generating additional passenger opportunities and revenue. Formidable logistical problems are involved but the issue must be pursued with vigour and urgency, even if it means opening a temporary halt on the branch at Romanby with a bus link into the town.