Holding out for Dales railway reinstatement a “waste of time”

A view west along the route of the old railway from the former Hawes station. Photo: YDNPA.

A move to create multi-user route along a Yorkshire Dales railway line which closed 63 years ago has been agreed in principle amid disagreement over whether the initiative to enable different types of people to enjoy the landscapes would end ambition to reinstate the route for trains.

Members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority have also approved launching an extensive public consultation to assess appetite for the scheme along a six-mile stretch of the former line between Hawes and Garsdale.

Yesterday’s meeting heard the proposal had already sparked a significant debate among communities in the Dales, but the authority should also seek the views of people living in towns and cities surrounding the park.

Upper Wensleydale resident Ruth Annison told the meeting the authority’s ambition to be “resilient and responsive to the impacts of climate change” was reflected by its peat restoration and plastics reclamation projects, “but weak on developments in public transport and car-free access to the national park”.

She said the line between Hawes and Garsdale was the only possible route for a reinstated railway and crucial to fulfil a long-held plan to link the East Coast Mainline in Northallerton with the Settle to Carlisle Railway, whereas the authority had recognised alternative sites for multi-user routes were feasible.

Several members expressed strong support for the reinstatement of the railway, with one describing the Settle to Carlisle line as “a golden thread” running through the park from which the authority could weave an increasingly green tourism enterprise.

The meeting heard feasibility studies had concluded the dismantled route from Redmire to Garsdale could support a railway in future, but action to preserve it while creating a multi-user route would cost millions of pounds extra.

Long-serving member Skipton councillor Robert Heseltine insisted that despite two bids to fund the line’s reinstatement falling flat there was still hope the Hawes to Garsdale line would receive government funding following success of a similar ambition between Colne and his ward.

Wensleydale farmer Allen Kirkbride added: “Once it is converted to a multi-user purpose it will not be allowed again. Once it is gone it is gone.”

However, the debate saw numerous members pour cold water on the ambition, with Richmondshire councillor John Amsden saying the railway would never be rebuilt and highlighting how some farmers and landowners were even opposed to letting the multi-user route cross their land.

The authority’s recreation management member champion, Nick Cotton, a cycle guide author, told members cycle trails along former rail routes were “incredibly popular” as they created places where families could ride safely along easily manageable gradients.

Member Cosima Towneley said by holding out for a reinstated railway the authority was “simply wasting time and wasting a great asset” that could be enjoyed by a host of people, and in particular horse riders who were repeatedly overlooked in favour of cyclists.

After being told the multi-user route would enable many people who are unable to climb over stiles and walk up steep gradients to enjoy the landscapes of the national park, the majority of members agreed the multi-user route would be of benefit to the park’s visitors, economy and communities.



  1. Those with longer memories can recall that walking and cycling proponents put up precisely the same arguments and said exactly the same things when the disused Wensleydale Branch from Northallerton to Redmire risked going for scrap in 1992.
    Just like now, the nay-sayers were saying “It’ll never happen”. It did.
    How many times now do you hear those people moaning that they were denied a walking and cycling route? Answer: You don’t. They walked and pedalled somewhere else. The Wensleydale Railway has brought many many thousands of pounds in to the lower Wensleydale economy, continues to do so and has brought delight and entertainment to many people having days out. Full credit to those who pressed on to make it happen and ignored the doom prophets.
    With their record of innovation and practicality up and around Hawes you’d think the upper Dales folk and their National Park guardians would want some of that. You do wonder sometimes.

  2. This is could be an important route and should be reinstated for rail traffic so cutting pollution and be easier for access to all people enjoying the area

  3. After nearly 60 years away from Hawes, I’ve decided to come home. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to participate in the inaugural walk from Hawes to Garsdale.
    I was on the final train journey so this would close the circle.

  4. How is it possible for the muti-user route or the railway to be considered if the farmers and owners will not sell what was the old track bed or allow this to pass over what is now there land.
    The first thing to do must be to approach the land owners of the old track bed before this goes any further to see if they are happy with it, after all it is the farmers that put the food on our tables and this is much more important at this time as the state this country is in than making somewhere for people to walk. I think we’re all going to have to start prioritising much more as some of our parents had to after the 2 world war to make it Great Briton again.

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