Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Settle-Carlisle Railway Business Liaison Group (REN 46)

RAIL SERVICES IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND

RURAL DEVELOPMENT ALONG A RAIL CORRIDOR

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The Settle-Carlisle Railway Business Liaison Group (SCRBLG) is an independent and voluntary organisation, formally constituted in 1990, and funded by members' subscriptions. The officers and committee are elected at an annual general meeting. The aims of the Group are "to support the railway and appropriate developments which benefit the economy and communities of the corridor it serves."

  2.  SCRBLG's current activities include networking among local businesses, topical seminars and events, research and the publication of specialist reports and a magazine. In the year 2001, and also in the aftermath of Foot and Mouth Disease, the Group has been engaged in supporting its members and subsequently initiating a strong marketing campaign for the parts of the Yorkshire Dales, Eden Valley and Cumbrian Fells through which the Settle-Carlisle line runs and which were so harshly affected by the loss of tourism and its widespread consequences.

  3.  SCRBLG's relationship with the railway is simply that-for nearly 80 miles-it runs through our membership area and thereby provides both a transport link and a focal point. There is a strong synergy between the Settle-Carlisle railway, local businesses and the communities in 100 rural parishes through which the line runs. SCRBLG has no connection with its ownership, the operation of trains or management and ticket sales at the staffed stations at Appleby and Settle.

  4.  SCRBLG has always sought to publicise the relationship between the railway and the rural communities it serves. The line offers local people an exit from the area (in winter weather a lifeline) for education and training, work, shopping, specialised health consultations and treatments, family visits, holidays and much more. It brings in visitors who spend money as they eat, shop and stay in this loveliest of remote and scenic areas and thereby contribute to the local economy, both directly and also through the well-known "ripple effect" of secondary expenditure by tourist businesses. The railway brings customers to local businesses which, in turn, provide passengers for the railway. This aspect has been well-established over the years, including our own study "Trains and Trade" in 1991 which was later used by North Yorkshire County Council to support their application for European funding.

THE SETTLE-CARLISLE LINE: TRAINS AND TRADE

  5.  From the earliest times there has been a clear understanding of the social and economic role of transport corridors. The Settle-Carlisle railway line provides a useful example because local rail services suffered a long period of closure when trains only stopped at Appleby and Settle for passengers to alight and board. For most of the 1980s the line itself was subject to closure proposals but on 24 July 1986, unexpectedly and with some ceremony, British Rail restored local stopping services to the line and re-opened eight small stations. Overnight, the local tourist industry discovered that a new facility had been provided. Within days, hotels were actively promoting the railway as an added visitor attraction and shops were selling Settle-Carlisle souvenirs. After eight years of robust campaigning the line was finally reprieved from closure.

  6.  SCRBLG has, however, been deeply concerned about the long-term future of passenger services on the line because of the difficulties and delays associated with the bidding process for the new rail franchise. There are no major hotels in the Settle-Carlisle corridor, yet the amount of visitor accommodation is very large if you aggregate all the bedrooms in pubs, guest houses, youth hostels, country hotels, holiday cottages and add the camping and caravan sites. In summer, for example, the overnight population at one new caravan site in Hawes is as large as that of some of the surrounding villages. The availability and quality of travel information, and the rail services themselves, are critical factors in the economic regeneration of the area, influencing people's decisions on length of stay and whether to make a return visit, just to travel on the line. Overnight visitors only account for about half the people who use the countryside of the Settle-Carlisle corridor for recreation. Day trip access via the Settle-Carlisle line (and its associated bus links between stations and settlements) is therefore significant in its potential to help bring in visitors whilst achieving a reduction in car use.

INCREASING PATRONAGE ON THE SETTLE-CARLISLE LINE

  7.  There are two projects which would especially help to increase patronage on the Settle-Carlisle line, both having a regeneration dividend that would, additionally, provide social inclusiveness and environmental gain. These projects are to provide daily year-round passenger traffic on existing rails from the North West (Manchester-Blackburn-Clitheroe-Hellifield-Settle-Carlisle) and to reinstate the 40 mile line through Wensleydale to re-connect the Settle-Carlisle line at Garsdale with the East Coast main line at Northallerton. Both projects have vigorous local proposers who would be greatly encouraged by significant policy support (for example, through the speeding through of Rail Passenger Partnerships etc).

  8.  It is essential to ease administrative procedures so that grass-roots experience and knowledge can be utilized in forward planning and passenger information, especially so that marketing of the Settle-Carlisle line can be done more efficiently. (You almost have to beg for timetables!)

THE COMMUNITY DIVIDEND

  9.  Over the past decade European funding has been channelled through a series of schemes, the latest of which is called Objective 2. To qualify for this funding, local groups must produce a prospectus for a Community Investment Programme (CIP). In Upper Wensleydale (part of the Settle-Carlisle corridor) the CIP group has identified a number of projects which would help the area. One of these is the reinstatement of the former railway line from Hawes to the Settle-Carlisle line at Garsdale, six miles away ie a section of the Wensleydale line. The development of the Wensleydale Railway has the wholehearted support of all three of the Upper-, Mid- and Lower Wensleydale CIP groups in their published reports.

  10.  The Upper Wensleydale CIP group was made up of representatives of farming, tourism, light manufacturing and social services. It set itself two main tasks:

    (a)  To seek solutions to the endemic problem of low wages in the area; and

    (b)  To help tackle the crisis in hill farming which has resulted in an annual drop of £3-4 million in farm income in Upper Wensleydale alone.

  11.  The CIP group was faced with the need to create a local market (so that customers would come to the business rather than the other way round) and to introduce a new market segment (to avoid the danger of new businesses simply attracting customers at the expense of established ones). It was realised that the customer base must be large enough to make a noticeable impact on the scale of the problem. A whole range of options were considered but reinstatement of the Hawes to Garsdale rail link seemed to offer the best solution to the identified problems.

  12.  Significant factors in making this recommendation were:

    (a)  The availability of a local promoter, Wensleydale Railway plc, willing and able to undertake track renewal and operation of the line, and to provide private finance.

    (b)  Important social advantages that would result from providing easy access to the national rail network.

    (c)  The railway would facilitate modal shift, from private car to public transport, which is a key planning objective in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

  13.  In the other example, restoring services from Manchester, Blackburn and Clitheroe via Hellifield and Settle to the Yorkshire Dales, the Eden Valley and Carlisle—and in reverse to Manchester Airport—would mean more customers for public transport services, more business opportunities and more prosperity.

IN SUMMARY

  14.  SCRBLG would like to see the inter-relationship between rural railways and their local economy and communities translated into beneficial rail services on the Settle-Carlisle line (taking account of the aspirations for service provision that are described in the Submission from the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line (FoSCL) as well as the proposals made in this Submission). SCRBLG would also like to see greater partnership in practice between adjoining agencies and county councils whose territories include the Settle-Carlisle line (particularly the North West Regional Development Agency and Yorkshire Forward; the Cumbria Tourist Board and Yorkshire Tourist Board; Cumbria County Council and North Yorkshire County Council;) many sound local ideas and good opportunities fail at this level because of lack of co-operation or even awareness of the work of officers on the other side of the boundary (see also Paragraph 8). Train operators (TOCs) are in the best position to initiate improvements in cross-boundary co-operation as their rail services cross the boundaries daily.

Ruth Annison

Chairman, SCRBLG,

June 2002



 
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