Memorandum by the Settle-Carlisle Railway
Business Liaison Group (REN 46)
RAIL SERVICES IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND
RURAL DEVELOPMENT ALONG A RAIL CORRIDOR
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.
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.
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
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!)
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
(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 Carlisleand
in reverse to Manchester Airportwould mean more customers
for public transport services, more business opportunities and
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.