IT IS hoped that trains can start running between Leeming Bar and Leyburn later this year.

Local railway campaigners have taken delivery of one third of a three-car diesel multiple unit which will eventually be used for the first passenger trains along the 11-mile stretch, once all the legal and technical requirements have been satisfied.

Wensleydale Railway plc has signed a five-year contract for the hire of the unit - right - owned by Class 107. Volunteer drivers, most with professional experience of main line work, have been undergoing training on the type at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey steam railway near Skipton.

The power car shown was delivered to the Wensleydale Railway plc yard at Leeming Bar Station from Cardiff, where it underwent an overhaul at the Pullman works.

A lease enabling Wensleydale Railway plc to take over the 22-mile line between Northallerton and Redmire from Network Rail, the successor to Railtrack, has been signed.

The lease cannot formally take effect and no passenger trains can run, however, until the Office of the Rail Regulator has accepted the track access agreement negotiated between Wensleydale Railway plc and EWS, which operates freight trains on the line. The regulator must also issue operating licences.

Other issues including safety, insurance, ticketing arrangements and agreement with transport police have been settled.

Staff training and trial running of trains will follow improvements to the track and installation of platforms at Leeming Bar and Leyburn.

Following final approval from the railway inspectorate, train services will be built up, alongside more engineering work, until they are running hourly with a second three-car diesel unit.

It is hoped that later there will be locomotive-hauled trains, using three preserved Class 31 diesels, and a steam engine on some services - D&