Railway campaigners reunite for landmark Settle-Carlisle celebration

PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 May 2014

Sunshine and crowds greet the train on its arrival in Settle photograph by Simon Vine

Sunshine and crowds greet the train on its arrival in Settle photograph by Simon Vine

Simon Vine Photography

More than 40 of the original campaigners who steamed in to save the much-loved Settle-Carlisle Railway in the 1980s have been treated to a special anniversary train ride.

Former transport minister Michael Portillo takes a trip on the Settle - Carlisle lineFormer transport minister Michael Portillo takes a trip on the Settle - Carlisle line

Former transport minister Michael Portillo, who made the historic announcement that the line would remain open in 1989, also joined the celebrations along with representatives of the railway industry, tourism bodies and civic dignitaries.

A total of 600 passengers travelled on board a Direct Rail Services train hauled by three diesel locomotives on a return journey between Leeds and Carlisle.

‘Not only was this a fantastic occasion in its own right, but it was also a springboard for the future,’ said Richard Morris, chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line. ‘It brought together many of those who were instrumental in saving the line from closure 25 years ago and those in government and the rail industry today who will determine the shape of the Settle-Carlisle for the next 25 years.

‘We look forward to working with them to give England’s most scenic railway the trains and rail service that it deserves.’

Michael Portillo, now known for his television programmes featuring Great Railway Journeys, added: ‘It was moving to see the hills, bridges and stations filled with people. What joy that we have the line still.’

Settle-Carlisle Railway now carries more passengers than ever before in its history. There has been a tenfold increase in passengers since the 1980s, with the number currently standing at 1.3 million a year.

Completed in 1876 by navvies slogging through unforgiving terrain, the line, with its 72 miles of track, 20 viaducts and 14 tunnels, is a testament to Victorian engineering. Such railways were always incredibly difficult to build in the UK but, in the ensuing years, seemed to become increasingly easy to close – until it came to the Settle-Carlisle.

Since its welcome reprieve in
1989, a considerable amount of work has been done along the line in upgrading stations and facilities, the highlight being Ribblehead station which had stood derelict for many years but it now an award-winning visitor centre.

For more information about the Settle-Carlisle Railway, its history and its current running times, visit settle-carlisle.co.uk.

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