A Yorkshire steam railway has been granted a licence to carry passengers on a route which has not seen steam trains for more than 40 years.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), which already runs heritage trains between the villages of Grosmont and Pickering, will now be able to extend its service on six miles of Network Rail track which crosses the scenic Esk Valley to coastal Whitby.
A new Whitby Endeavour Steam service will commence on April 6 2007 and continue throughout the year, linking the east coast port with the rest of the NYMR, the first time a regular steam service has operated on the route since 1965.
“This is a hugely important step for us, and we believe a first in railway heritage,” said Philip Benham, NYMR General Manager.
“Our trains are operated by both volunteer and paid staff, and we have had to show that we have the competence to work to the same exacting standards as national rail operators, and of course safety is paramount.”
The licence, granted by the government’s Office for Rail Regulation, also means that the NYMR will be able to double their services in 2007 to more than 100 days a year.
“NYMR carries almost 300,000 passengers a year through the beautiful North York Moors scenery,” added Philip. “We need to repay this renewed confidence in us by ensuring the new services work well and on time.”
Preparing to leave Whitby. Courtesy NYMR
To run services on the national railway system NYMR had to pass a ‘Safety Case’, which was approved in November 2006, and negotiate a contract with Network Rail, secured at the same time as their essential passenger licence.
The North York Moors Railway is one of the earliest and most historic lines in the north of England. Its 24-mile stretch of track from Whitby to Pickering first opened in May 1836, initially using animal power to pull traffic and then used by steam engines.
By the 1950s traffic was dwindling and it ceased carrying passengers in 1965. Campaigners, working with the county council, managed to reopen the line between Grosmont and Pickering in 1975 to heritage trains.
The NYMR starts its regular services on the Grosmont to Pickering route on February 11 2007.