Campaigners call on MPs to restore Ripon railway link

Back in the day: Ripon Railway Station
Back in the day: Ripon Railway Station
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Campaigners are calling for the re-opening of an historic rail link across North Yorkshire to deliver a major boost to the rural economy and reduce road congestion.

The Leeds Northern Railway Reinstatement Group has submitted evidence to MPs making the case for a £45m project to reopen the rail link to Ripon, Yorkshire’s smallest city.

A report submitted to the Commons transport committee says reopening the old Harrogate-Ripon-Northallerton railway, closed on the recommendation of Dr Beeching in the mid-1960s, would offer a timely boost to the Yorkshire economy.

“Beeching had a far greater impact on the prosperity of Ripon than just losing a rail service,” the report said, citing the closure of the local college and other knock-on effects. “Decline will continue as the Ministry of Defence announced earlier this year the closure of Ripon Army Barracks. If ever railway reinstatement is needed to boost the economy here in Ripon, now is the time.”

The group’s 19-point proposal outlined a number of economic benefits, especially if further routes to Leeds and Wetherby were reopened. These included: A strategic passenger route north from Leeds to Northallerton; easing congestion on the East Coast mainline; and restoring through trains to Harrogate.

The proposals would see journey times reduced as the restored lines would remove the need for changes at York. Congestion would also be removed from overcrowded roads such as the A61.

Reaction to the report’s findings has been favourable but cautious.

North Yorkshire County Council said: “The council supports in principle proposals for rail reopening across North Yorkshire, though at present it is unlikely that we will be able to provide any funding contribution.”

Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon said: “I’m very supportive of any ideas for returning the railways to Ripon – but thus far there needs to be more detail and much more focus on the cost-benefit analysis of any proposals.”

Comment: Page 16; Golden age of rail – Saturday Essay: Page 18.