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North Yorkshire County Council has been slammed over condemning a railway line to Victorian-era capabilities.
The hard-hitting report ‘Where’s the Plan?’ was published by the Esk Valley Railway Development Company, the Community Rail Partnership for the Whitby to Middlesbrough Esk Valley line.
It reached a conclusion that North Yorkshire County Council "is not properly equipped to manage a rail infrastructure project and their consultants were either not prepared or not sufficiently informed to explore innovative solutions as requested”.
The report claims that there has been almost no progress or proper consultation in the five years since the partnership, along with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) and other local groups, persuaded Sirius Minerals to provide £4.5m of funding to improve the infrastructure on the Esk Valley rail line to enable the doubling of the service.
Despite the delay, there is still no agreed plan but NYCC is proposing a "quick and dirty scheme" to install "additional restrictive and time-consuming Victorian-era token machine signalling", the report states.
The line has been rationalised to single track with passing loops at Nunthorpe, Glaisdale and Battersby Junction. One Northern Rail train runs up and down the line, taking an hour and twenty minutes to complete each journey between Middlesbrough and Whitby. NYMR steam services take up the remaining paths. There appears to be no available paths left for charter services from further afield or indeed for any future growth due to infrastructure restraints.
However, North Yorkshire County Council says "significant progress has been made in the past two years" with six trains per day in each direction.
Barrie Mason, assistant director for highways and transportation, said the council is "committed to seeing a modern railway with enhanced passenger services for the Esk Valley Line".
Here's what the report states:
'Outdated system would extend journey times'
Esk Valley Railway Development Company says it has consistently opposed a plan involving an "outdated system".
It would further extend journey times for all trains on the line, even when no other trains are running, and condemn it to continue to use for years to come the present outdated 19th Century signalling.
The Esk Valley line is already among a few on the national network still relying on this "Victorian-era system".
However, the group has proposed replacement with the installation of the much more flexible cab-based digital Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) system.
Already successfully in everyday use on several lines in Scotland, it would both enable more trains to run and offer significantly shorter journey times.
EVRDC says that, contrary to NYCC’s constant claims, its own research has established that such a scheme could be delivered within the funding already available.
Watch a Battersby to Whitby cab ride video of the line here including the manual token exchange process.
The rail map in the area has changed drastically, with many rail lines now closed.
Trains to and from Whitby now need to reverse at Battersby, whereas
previously a through line ran through Stokesley and Potto to Picton.
This article first appeared on www.focustransport.org
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