PLANS to reopen a North Yorkshire railway line which closed more than 40 years ago could be revived.

A scheme to put trains back on the former Harrogate-Ripon-Thirsk-Northallerton route has been stalled for more than four years.

But in June, efforts will be made by North Yorkshire County Council to appoint consultants to carry out a study into passenger demand.

Already, the Countryside Agency has given a 50 per cent grant towards the study, which will identify likely uses for the line if it is reopened.

Meanwhile, Ripon's Single Regeneration funding organisation, administered by Ripon City Partnership, will consider on April 29 whether to give financial backing to the study. The scheme goes out to tender in June.

Some of the old line has been built on, notably at Wormald Green and Littlethorpe, and a section of Ripon bypass built seven years ago.

The line was shut down to passengers, then to goods traffic, during the sweeping closure of rail lines in the Sixties prompted by Dr Charles Beeching's report.

Restoration of the line is being strongly supported by Ripon Railway Reinstatement Association.

Chris Millns, head of environmental enhancement at the county council, said the study could be followed by a similar one focusing on engineering.

If the studies proved positive, funding would then be needed to finance the project.

Mr Millns said moving ahead with the scheme could prove a "very lengthy, expensive process".

When the scheme began to gather pace in 1999, residents in the Littlethorpe area, near Ripon, expressed concern that homes, farms and businesses could be affected by reopening the track.

But Mr Millns said any engineering feasibility study would explore alternative routes to avoid areas which had been developed.

When the line was in operation, Ripon railway station was at Ure Bank, a mile north of the city centre.

If the line is eventually reopened it has been suggested that one station should be in the north of the city, near Beeches Farm, and another in the south, near Safeways superstore, close to the Wheatshef roundabout.

From Harrogate the old line crossed the Nidd Gorge near Nidd Bridge station. There was also a station at Wormald Green and beyond Ripon at Melmerby.