QUIETLY beavering away at a myriad range of tasks, the volunteers of the Wensleydale Railway Association are not far from seeing their dream realised.

A few bureaucratic regulatory hurdles remain to be cleared before they take control of the line and services between Leeming Bar and Leyburn can begin. It's been a long 12-year haul to get this far but an important stage in the journey to Hawes and perhaps beyond is nearing its end.

The efforts of the association are chronicled in its Relay magazine published this week. The volunteers are truly impressive in their dedication. So much has been done to restore track, rolling stock and buildings, all of it through unpaid effort, often in the direst of weather.

Sadly this noble initiative is taking place against the backdrop of an apparent Government U-turn on the local railway network. Its Strategic Rail Authority's decisions to withdraw support for some local services and grants for local passenger and freight improvements is short-sighted.

All the funds, such as they are, are to be channelled into main line and urban services, leaving bus services to take up the slack in rural areas.

While bus services are essential, they work best when run in conjunction with rail. Allowing the local rail network to rot is a criminal waste of past public investment. And as the Wensleydale Railway heroes have found, putting an abandoned asset like a railway to rights is not an easy job.

The volunteers of the Wensleydale Railway believe that local railways, where they still exist, have an important transport and economic regeneration role to play and they have backed their belief with hard cash - to the tune of £1m - and 12 years of hard work.

When those first train services do start running it is to be hoped their example inspires the local travelling public rather more than it has the Government.