Friday, 7 April 2017
652 The Fight For The Settle-Carlisle
First viewed : 16 January 1984
This was a half-hour documentary on what became a major issue in 1983, the proposed closure of the railway line between Settle and Carlisle. The line was built by the Midland Railway in the 1870s as a result of commercial rivalry and was a triumph of Victorian engineering. It also provided a very scenic journey as it snaked through the sparsely populated Yorkshire Dales and Eden Valley.
The line had experienced a long decline beginning with the merging of railway companies in 1923. Beeching suggested the removal of passenger services and although this was not actioned, most of the intermediate stations were closed in 1970 and a restricted service of two trains a day in each direction applied. From 1974 though, special Dalesrail services were introduced using the little stations to promote the line to ramblers and ultimately this helped to save the line. In the early eighties, British Rail announced that it thought the cost of repairing the viaducts particularly at Ribblehead was too prohibitive to keep the line open. A pressure group the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line was created to resist the idea
In 1984, closure notices went up with the intention of ceasing services when the current timetable ceased in February. The programme was made with that deadline in mind.
My interest in railways had lain pretty dormant since the unwelcome discovery back in 1979 that 14 year olds were expected to pay full fare on the trains. This re-awakened it and, having bought a Young Person's Railcard as soon as I got my grant to facilitate visits home ( with bags of washing of course ) , I took a trip along the line on Saturday 28th January 1984. I can't say it was all that thrilling. It was a lousy day with a lot of misty rain obscuring the views. I recall visiting Carlisle Castle and Cathedral and moseying around the latter's bookshop. I didn't feel it was worth waiting around for the one going back to Leeds at 5pm as the route would be in darkness so I came back via the alternative Lancaster route, an attractive journey in itself.
As things turned out , the line got a stay of execution and in 1989 was reprieved altogether, a decision for which a certain Mr Portillo likes to claim the credit. As covered in a separate blog I used the line frequently in 1992-3 for walking The Settle-Carlisle Way.