RAIL enthusiasts have criticised a decision to suspend the famous steam trains which have run from York through Ryedale and Malton to Scarborough each summer, following a fire.
The fire, beside the line, was caused by Hogwarts Castle, which starred in all the Harry Potter films, but enthusiasts say the ban has had a major impact on the tourist season and argue it is a “disproportionate response.”
David Smith, chairman and managing director of West Coast Railways which has run the steam operation to the seaside for nearly 20 years over the summer months said: “While we acknowledge that fire risk is particular to steam operations we consider that we have made satisfactory arrangements so that the risk is as low as reasonably possible,” he said.
Mr Smith said of the Hogwarts Castle: “The resulting ban deprived many fans and well-wishers of its final run before being put on show at Leavesden Studios.”
As a result the company has only been running diesel locomotives on the holiday route instead of steam trains, in a move that has disappointed hundreds of rail buffs and many photographers and rail enthusiasts who perch on rail bridges to get spectacular shots of the steam trains.
Mr Smith added: “Unsurprisingly passenger numbers this summer season have dropped through the floor which is not only a great disappointment to us but also hit visitor numbers to York, Ryedale and Scarborough. The ban is harsh and unreasonable. Steam is an attraction and has had a huge knock on effect on passengers both to the seaside and Harry Potter fans. We have seen a drop of 1,000 passengers in the last three weeks alone.”
A spokesman for Network Rail said in a statement: “West Coast Railways has been suspended from running steam charters on the London North Eastern and East Midlands route which covers Yorkshire, since July 12. That was due to a line side fire caused by one of their services which was in breach of our steam operations protocol.
“We are awaiting a response from West Coast Railways about the corrective actions that will be put in place to avoid such a breach recurring. It should be a simple matter to provide clarity on the corrective action to be taken and the resolutions of this issue is easily achievable upon receiving such a response,” the spokesman added.