Council taxpayers’ money looks set to be pumped into a study to assess the feasibility of bringing a railway line back into use by the public 60 years after passenger traffic was withdrawn.
Richmondshire District Council’s leading members will consider providing half the funding for the study – £8,000 – into creating a family-friendly, multi-user cycle route as part of the reinstatement of the Hawes to Garsdale railway route.
The council is being urged to team up with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to add to cycling routes which serve families in the Dales such as those at Malham Tarn, Greenfield Forest and in Swaledale.
A report to the council’s corporate board states the 12-mile Swale Trail route cost £200,000 to develop and since opening in spring 2018 it had been “a great success”, with an estimated 5000 cyclists a year, of all ages and abilities using the route.
Councillors will be told creating another cycle route would enhance the tourism offer to the ‘active family’ market, and in doing so boost our visitor economy.
The report states: “The terrain in the Yorkshire Dales presents inspiring challenges for cyclists, but it can also make access difficult for people with limited mobility, wheelchair users or those with young children. The development of a relatively flat level-surface route running on or alongside a railway line would allow a wonderfully wide range of users to access, enjoy and benefit from the special qualities of the national park.”
The officers’ report states opening up the Hawes to Garsdale route would also provide another reason for younger people and families to live in the national park by providing a further opportunity to make the most of the active lifestyle on offer.
Reversing the exodus of young families from the park is among the highest priorities for both the park authority and the council.
The report states creating the route would enable people, whatever their fitness, to benefit from the health and wellbeing offered by recreational activity in the park.
The railway line has been protected from development to support the Wensleydale Railway’s long-term ambition of reinstating the route.
Supporters of the scheme say if the reconstruction of the railway line could also deliver a parallel recreational trail, then the joint infrastructure benefits would be much greater.
Councillor Yvonne Peacock, the authority’s Conservative group leader, has welcomed the initiative. She said: “My only concern is there has to be some safeguards in place to ensure the cycle route does not stop the Wensleydale Railway from reinstating the railway line.”