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"The Settle & Carlisle Railway" by Drew Haley, General Manager, The Settle & Carlisle Railway Development Company: Edinburgh meeting of 9 October 2018.

Jim Millerd

Drew Haley, General Manager, The Settle & Carlisle Railway Development Company

© John Yellowlees, 2018

Michael Portillo recalls saving the Settle and Carlisle Line as his greatest political achievement, but he was probably a minor player.

On the 1983 announcement of the closure proposal, the Friends were formed to fight it and generated 22000 objections, including one from a dog Ruswarp who having stood guard over his master's body would survive just long enough to attend his funeral.

Other players were Colin Speakman who had founded the Dales Rail excursions, Ron Cotton a "double agent" who having been appointed by BR to close the line set about developing it instead by reopening stations and cutting fares, and engineer Tony Freschini who set about repairing Ribblehead Viaduct at a lower than predicted cost.

When the reprieve was announced on 11 April 1989, it was clear that the minister had saved a line but not much of a service. There had been only two trains each way on Mondays to Saturdays only, and the two surviving stations exclusively served were unstaffed and rundown. Others reopened by Ron retained their heritage buildings, but were in a state of disrepair.

Whereas the Friends with its 3500 membership is not a commercial organisation, the Settle & Carlisle Development Company formed in 1992 is a limited company that is for neither profit nor loss and raises money to keep the railway sustainable. Hailing it as the Leeds, Settle and Carlisle Line, the Company compliments Northern's online marketing by promoting it also to those who rely on hard copy. Its timetable is a key tool, conveying the railways attractions as well as its operating times, and there is a line-guide that can sell upwards of 8000 copies in a good year.

The Companyhas adopted Settle and Appleby Stations and the Friends of adoptthe others. It manages disabled assistance and group travel, provides a catering trolley employing up to nine members of staff, selling local products on train, and is supporting the Trust in developing the visitor centre and cafe for Ribblehead Station. Seeking to promote heritage without casting stations in aspic, it is supporting provision of CCTV and customer information systems, and is especially proud of administering the Dales Railcard now with 6000 holders which offers discounts and out-of-season special offers. Staff at Settle and Appleby are provided by the Company, which has provided toilets and manages carparking there - giving 20% of income to Northern - and seeks uses for buildings at other stations. A measure of success is that the Settle & Carlisle has the highest revenue per passenger of any Northern route.

Newsletter circulation has fallen from 10k to 1800 with GDPR, but the Company does have a website and an App, with 20k visitors a month. Where the product is not so good are the trains - the only progress in 25 years has been from Class 156s to 158s - and the timetable which still has long gaps eg from 1049 to 1404 out of Carlisle.

The future is Scotland since an on train survey has confirmed that there are far more passengers than the official figures claim, 27% of journeys being Anglo-Scottish taking advantage of open-routing fares, that average half the price of going via the East Coast Main Line. One operator is known to be interested, and while going via Dumfries might have traditional appeal, Drew's eye is on the prize of the West Coast Main Line which last hosted a Leeds-Glasgow via Settle service in 2002. Such trains could facilitate transfer of local calls in a two-tier timetable, meeting Metro's aspiration for faster journeys, and he would like to see West Coast operators using the S&C for planned diversions as BR did. It also proved possible under a previous TOC to prove the adage that "shy bairns get nowt" for when Malcolm Brown was area director he gave in to Drew's calls for reduced fares.

For global tourism the biggest potential market is the Chinese, so the website is being translated into Mandarin. The Line probably now has the right number of stations, but Drew would like to see the normal timetable emulate DalesRail by having the Clitheroe-Machester route extended to connect at Hellifield.

Report and photograph by John Yellowlees.


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