Could the Harrogate to Ripon railway line really re-open?

A campaign group has raised the possibility of a 50-year-old rail link between Harrogate and Ripon being reinstated - but could it actually happen?
The old Ripon Station is now flatsThe old Ripon Station is now flats
The old Ripon Station is now flats

Harrogate's link with Ripon and Northallerton was axed by Dr Beeching during his infamous 1960s rail reforms, and the last train ran in 1967.

Since then, most of the track has been ripped up to make way for the modern relief road in Ripon, and the old station buildings have been turned into housing.

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There have been many calls for the line to re-open over the years, but a new campaign by the English Regional Transport Association has reignited hopes.

Some of the buildings in the old goods yard still surviveSome of the buildings in the old goods yard still survive
Some of the buildings in the old goods yard still survive

This Wetherby house has a disused viaduct from an old railway in the gardenThe volunteer group has highlighted the route as one which could potentially become a passenger line once again.

The northerly section of the line was originally part of the Leeds to Northallerton route, and the Leeds to Harrogate stretch is still operational today, although trains divert via a branch to York rather than continuing to Ripon.

The closure of Ripon Station, leaving the city without rail connections, was vigorously opposed at the time, but Beeching believed that passengers would instead join the East Coast Main Line at York for travel to Northallerton and further north.

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These are 11 of Yorkshire's lost railwaysIn 2005, North Yorkshire County Council commissioned a feasibility study into re-opening the line, and in 2015 they included it in their Strategic Transport Prospectus, which was submitted to Transport for the North. However, they've accepted that it won't happen before 2030.

They've estimated the cost of reinstatement as over £40million, but believe it would attract over 2,700 passengers a day.

Another pressure group, the Campaign for Better Transport, have also identified the route as a priority.

Network Rail have supported the idea, as it would mean they could use the track as a diversionary route if there were issues on the East Coast Main Line - this happened during the Thirsk rail crash in 1967, only shortly after the line's closure.

A local voice

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One of those to have actively campaigned for the line to be brought back into use is Dr Adrian Morgan, who founded the Ripon Railway Reinstatement Association in 1987. He also fought successfully to save the Settle to Carlisle line through the Yorkshire Dales from closure.

“Re-opening would knock 55 minutes off the current journey time from Harrogate to the north-east and Scotland. This would probably be without a change of train, as through-trains will happen again in Harrogate instead of having to travel via York and change trains there.

Could 'reverse Beeching cuts' re-open Yorkshire's lost railways“There is a general need to increase the number of railheads, and railhead car parks and capacity, by reinstating city region commuter rail routes to towns and cities which lost their rail services in the Beeching era. But the real spur will be if the A61 road from Ripon to Harrogate becomes gridlocked in future.”

What is the route used for now?

The track was taken up after closure, but much of the route alignment is still there. Some parts have become farmland and there has been building development at several points.

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One bridge over the A61 has been removed and the Ripon by-pass was built over part of the eastern stretch. Another part has been turned into a cycle and footpath.

If rebuilt, it would likely be a single-track line.

A new station would have to be sited away from the original station building, which is now a block of flats, and would likely be closer to the city centre.