Wensleydale Railway set to sell off Aysgarth Station to ensure its survival

Aysgarth Station. Photo: Nigel Thompson.

Wensleydale Railway Plc is proposing to sell Aysgarth Station to a private rail enthusiast to clear its debts and secure its survival.

However, the plan could prove controversial with some supporters unhappy at the sale discussing an alternative plan to buy the site.

Documents seen by Richmondshire Today reveal that the railway is in a difficult financial situation.

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The PLC board is looking to improve its finances with initiatives including enhanced catering and more steam services.

However, the documents say that the railway also needs to reduce costs and realise the value of assets.

One of its few assets is Aysgarth Station, which it pays a mortgage on.

The PLC has been looking to sell the station and an offer has been made from someone described as a “wealthy railway-focused individual”.

They are offering to buy the station for £400,000, which is almost the valuation price.

The sale of the station would then allow the railway to clear the £195,000 mortgage on the site and invest the rest in the running of the line.

The report to be put before shareholders at the AGM on September 9 states that the new owner would reinstate the track at Aysgarth Station.

He would then operate it as a hobby railway, with public access on certain days of the year.

The man is also interested in extending the line eastwards back towards Redmire, acting in partnership with Wensleydale Railway, and has expressed an interest in extending westwards towards Hawes too.

The report states: “The board is convinced that this situation offers the best of both worlds: a significant capital sum for the railway, and the extensive development of Aysgarth Station and possibly reinstatement of track along the route eastwards.”

A vote will be taken at the AGM and the sale would be stopped if the proposal is not backed.

However, the report adds: “Shareholders should, however, be in no doubt of the critical nature of this sale to the very survival of the railway.”

Carl Les, interim chair of Wensleydale Railway Plc, last night confirmed the sale would be debated at the forthcoming AGM.

He said he did not want to preempt those discussions.

However, he added that the sale to a private individual would help the railway to achieve its ambition of restoring the station and reconnecting Aysgrath to the line.

He said: “This is a good opportunity to because we have a willing buyer who is also a railway enthusiast.”

But not everyone backs the plan.

Shareholder Bruce Yarborough is calling for the station not to be sold off to a private individual.

He told Richmondshire Today: “There has been no consultation with shareholders on this, or members of the Wensleydale Railway Association, who are major shareholders in the company.”

He said a group of Wensleydale Railway Association members were hoping to get together enough money to buy the station themselves.

He added: “An alternative way forward, by some Wensleydale Railway Trust members is to safeguard the station by purchasing it, and ensuring that it can be used by the Wensleydale Railway, when and if they extend to Aysgarth.

“This is a once and only opportunity to save the station from falling in to private hands and being lost to the community.

“Time is short, the resolution is due to be voted on at the AGM on 9th September.”

More details on the alternative plans can be found here.