Dales line is reborn after nearly 50 years

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The Independent Online

Almost 50 years after passenger services ended, trains were again taking the fare-paying public through the Yorkshire Dales yesterday.

A 12-mile stretch of the Wensleydale line has been reopened by a group of enthusiasts who began planning to bring the railway back to life in the 1980s. Well-wishers packed the station at Leeming Bar, near Richmond, as supporters, including the local MP, William Hague, and his wife, Ffion, rode the 1950s train for its inaugural journey to Leyburn.

The line's reopening is a triumph for the 3,000 volunteers of the Wensleydale Railway Association.

Ruth Annison, co-founder and marketing director of Wensleydale Railways, described the journey as a "tremendous buzz. We have been lucky with the weather, we have two vintage coaches, it's just been amazing," she said. "People were doubtful when it began that it would be accomplished."

When the volunteers began, they thought they needed only to persuade British Rail to reopen the line. "British Rail disappeared and we were left with no choice but to do it ourselves," Ms Annison said. "Giving up was not an option. We had many, many difficulties but we never let those get in the way of progress."

David Bowe, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, who has been involved from the start, said: "There is still plenty to do, such as how we get the line over the hill to Settle, but it shows people power works."

The return-trip service will run seven days a week, with tickets at £8. The group hopes to attract between 50,000 and 100,000 passengers a year.