FOR those with a bit of romance in their souls the Settle-Carlisle railway has always captivated travellers taking them through spectacular landscapes and leaving them to wonder at the engineering feats which allowed the line to come into being at all.
Last month a 500,000-tonne landslip closed a section of the iconic rail route and it has now been revealed repairs will take “many months” to complete with passengers unable to travel by train along the full route for some time. Rather, tourists and locals will have to complete part of their journey by bus.
The line between Appleby and Carlisle was closed in February after Network Rail discovered a 130 metre by 70 metre section of the Eden gorge embankment, below the railway and above the River Eden at Eden Brows near Armathwaite, was giving way after weeks and weeks of downpours. Rail customers, including UK and overseas tourists, are currently travelling on train services operating between Leeds and Appleby, which remains open for business, but on replacement bus services between Appleby and Carlisle.
Rhiannon Price, Network Rail’s project manager for the Eden Brows repairs, said: “We are acutely mindful of the impact on communities served by this line, including businesses reliant on the tourist trade. We are working to fix this slip as quickly as possible.”
Network Rail said it was not yet clear how long this work would take due to the scale of the slip, the fact earth was still moving and the slip was in a difficult location to get to. However it said repairs would take “many months.”
Coun Richard Welch, a conservative who represents the Ribblesdale Division of North Yorkshire County Council said: “Settle-Carlisle is an iconic line.”
He said the closure would also be an inconvenience for local people who used the line but he urged tourists to carry on visiting the area but acknowledged: “This could have an impact on tourism especially with the Tour de Yorkshire coming up.”
Dorothy Fairburn, regional director of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said of Network Rail’s announcement: “It will be very frustrating for members but clearly this work has to be done.
She said CLA members had had a difficult time over the past few months but added: “..the message is that they are still very much open for business.”
The repairs at Eden Brows, near Armathwaite, Cumbria, will involve building a structure underneath the affected section of railway to support it and major earthworks to stabilise the embankment.
Alex Hynes, managing director for Northern Rail, said: “It’s clear from the extent of the repair needed at Eden Brows that this landslip is indeed an exceptional incident.
“We will continue to operate trains between Leeds and Appleby and look at more options to help keep our customers and the local communities around the affected area connected.”
Richard Morris, chairman of the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line, said: “We are working closely with Network Rail to get the very best of outcomes for this very special railway line. This is an enormous job and we do appreciate what is being done - and how long it is likely to take.
“Our volunteers will be working with Northern Rail to ensure passengers can still enjoy the spectacular section of line from Leeds as far as Appleby which is very much open for ‘business as usual’ as the tourist season approaches.”