CAMPAIGNERS are counting down the hours to the 25th anniversary of the saviour of the Settle-Carlisle Railway.
A major celebration of the anniversary takes place over eight dates this year including special trains, talks, walks, concerts and a music and beer festival at Dentdale over June 27-29.
The 72-mile long line was saved from closure on April 11, 1989 and is now reporting some of its major successes.
Richard Morris, is chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, which was established in 1983 to oppose threatened closure.
He said there has been a tenfold increase in passengers since the 1980s, currently standing at 1.3 million a year.
Freight has also returned to the railway, making it a 24/7 operation, with over 40 freight 'paths' day and night.
Key to this has been extra signalling equipment which has almost doubled the line’s capacity and hundreds of millions of pounds invested in new tracks, said the Friends.
Said Mr Morris: “All in all, there are more passengers and freight than ever before in the line’s history.”
The line is now recognised as England’s Most Scenic Railway and one of the world’s greatest railway journeys.
Most of the intermediate stations have re-opened, the beautiful Victorian station buildings have been renovated and are now tended by an army of volunteers.
The iconic Ribblehead viaduct, once condemned, has been restored and is the highlight of the journey for many.
The line is also a star route for the burgeoning steam rail-tours industry.
Dyan Crowther, route MD for Network Rail, Dyan Crowther, said: “The line is one of the most beautiful in Britain and will continue to be an important part of the railway in the north of England.”
The Settle-Carlisle, carving its way up the backbone of England, was named in January by consumer magazine Which? as offering the cheapest route to Scotland – by a whopping 59 per cent.
Alex Hynes, MD of Northern Rail said: “The Settle to Carlisle line is a vital part of the bustling and vibrant towns and villages that stretch across the Pennines and along the Dales. And they’re growing; we’re now carrying 1.3 million passengers every year. It’s hard to think what could have happened to these communities 25 years ago if the proposed closure had gone ahead.”
For more information, go to www.settle-carlisle.co.uk.