ONE of Yorkshire’s most popular tourist attractions has secured major new funding as it embarks on an investment programme to significantly improve its facilities.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has been give £500,000 to support a wide range of projects along the route from Pickering to Whitby.
It will help the railway as it embarks on a £2.876m programme of spending on improvements that will allow it to run more services and improve the quality of journeys.
And it is hoped the investment will have a ripple effect that creates jobs in the wider tourist economy of the region.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway general manager Philip Benham said: “One of the first projects this will support will be improvements on the signalling where our rail line meets Network Rail’s which will mean we can handle more trains to and from Whitby.
“Another interesting aspect of this money will be that we will be recommissioning a signalling gantry that was the last of its type operating in the country.
“It was decommissioned in 2011 from Scarborough and as it was listed Network Rail couldn’t just cut it up so they offered it to us.
“It has been standing over the railway for the last 18 months and now we will be putting working signals on it.
“We have also got a lot of bridges on the railway. We replaced a metal bridge a few years ago and there are others that need dealing with.”
The £500,000 has been given to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, the body which brings business and councils across the area to try and grow the economy.
Mr Benham said: “The economic benefit of this is partly from maintaining what we have got but also having more people travelling on the railway generates more economic benefits for the region.”
This year promises to be significant for the North Yorkshire tourism industry as the Tour de France offers the area the opportunity to show the world what it has to offer.
More than a million visitors are expected to be attracted to Yorkshire this coming July by the world famous cycle race which is watched by a huge global audience.
“We were disappointed the Tour de France is not coming to the east of York but clearly it is going to be a major event in Yorkshire and we are hoping more people come to this part of world and spill over into the major scenic tourist areas of the North York Moors and the coast.”
The investment in improvements and maintenance along the track comes as the railway prepares to open a second track and platform at Whitby Station.
NYMR has secured £1.4m from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund, Network Rail and the Railway Heritage Trust.
Bringing a second platform into use at Whitby will allow the NYMR to increase the number of trains arriving at the coast from three to five per day.
The project was originally supposed to be completed by April but has been delayed although the NYMR is hopeful it will still be ready in time for the main summer tourist period starting in July.
Barry Dodd, chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership, said “Improving travel connections across Yorkshire is a core component of the LEP’s strategy for developing the region.
“Not only will this help businesses to attract and retain high quality employees, it also gives us a new opportunity to attract tourists who will be introduced to the area with the launch of The Tour de France later this year.”
The LEP has created toolkits on its website and is holding roadshows to help businesses take advantage of Tour de France opportunities.