Could 'reverse Beeching cuts' re-open Yorkshire's forgotten railways?
Transport secretary Chris Grayling recently announced that he wanted his department to identify disused railways which could be re-opened to passenger traffic.
He suggested that several rural routes closed in the infamous 'Beeching axe' period during the 1960s could be restored.
At the time, an increase in car ownership and motorway traffic meant that many small branch lines and stations were running at a loss.
But a revival in rail travel has meant that re-opening some of the mothballed lines is now seen as a viable option.
Yorkshire was particularly badly hit by Dr Beeching's cuts. Harrogate lost its links to Church Fenton, Ripon and Northallerton, while the line between Ilkley and Otley disappeared.
Wetherby lost its station when the Cross Gates route was shut, and the Scarborough to Whitby line has since become a cycle track.
East Yorkshire towns such as Beverley and Pocklington also lost their link to York.
Not all of the former routes could feasibly re-open - some have become heritage railways, while others have been converted into cycle paths and greenways.
Reverse Beeching? The Yorkshire routes with the most potential
- Cross Gates to Wetherby. This line ran from east Leeds, with stations in the villages of Scholes, Thorner, Bardsey and Collingham - all popular with Leeds commuters. Housing has been built over much of the original track.
- Harrogate to Northallerton and Ripon. There was consternation when Ripon's railway station was shut in 1967. The current Leeds to Harrogate line had run all the way to Ripon and Northallerton before this section was axed, and the city's relief road was built over much of the original route, although the station building is still standing. There have been feasibility studies into re-opening the line commissioned in the past decade.
- Harrogate to Church Fenton. This line served Wetherby, Thorp Arch and Tadcaster, and a loop was added during the war to serve the munitions factory at Thorp Arch. Most of the route has been a cycle path since the 1990s.
- Ilkley to Skipton. Although it would be unlikely to attract large commuter flows, this one would surely be popular with visitors to the Dales. It was an extension of the route from Otley to Ilkley, and there were stations at Addingham and tourist trap Bolton Abbey. A small section is now part of the preserved Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, but most has been redeveloped, and the bridges and embankments were demolished in the 1970s.
- Leeds to Huddersfield. Although the two stations still have a direct link, there was also an alternative route that ran between them. There were stations at Farnley & Wortley, Gildersome, Birstall, Gomersal, Cleckheaton, Liversedge and Heckmondwike. It was known as the Spen Valley Line, and is now a greenway.
- Otley to Ilkley. Nowadays, commuters from Otley have to travel to Ilkley to pick up connections to Leeds and Bradford, but the two towns were once directly linked, with stops at Arthington and Pool-in-Wharfedale.
- Scarborough to Whitby. This line was known for its scenic route, although it traversed difficult gradients. There were stations at several villages along the way, including Robin Hood's Bay. Never likely to have been a well-used commuter link, but today it would be popular with tourists. It's now the Cinder Track, a cycle and bridle path.
- York to Beverley. This was part of a line which ran all the way to Hull, with stations at Market Weighton and Pocklington. Part of the route is now a cycle path, but the track bed is still present in many areas and there are also station buildings and goods sheds which survive. Proposals to re-open the line with an amended route have been discussed in recent years.