The Anonymous Widower

Long Live The Settle And Carlisle

Or as I rode the Settle and Carlisle line yesterday from North to South, should I call it, the Carlisle and Settle?

I’ve never ridden it before and I can’t understand why, as it is a spectacular line running through magnificent scenery.

The weather yesterday wasn’t good as the pictures show.  But that didn’t stop the 15:05 from Carlisle being about two-thirds full. Most seemed to be small groups, whohad had a day out and were returning to Leeds. But judging by their clothes, they weren’t going to stray far into the hills.

If this a typical journey on a wet Tuesday afternoon in late January, there can’t be much wrong with the way the line is managed, as a partnership.  Judging by the age of many of the customers, the ridership is probably a tribute to the Senior and other railcards.

Reading various web sites it would seem that Network Rail have got to grips with the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct, the track and other structures, and the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company seem to have been doing their best in restoring stations and other lineside structures. I also found this article on the Network Rail web site about improving communications and signalling.

It would appear too, that there is a lot of enthusiasm and common sense in securing the future of this line.

So what do I think the future will hold?

The Development Company and others want to see more trains on the line. Currently, there are seven trains in both directions between Leeds and Carlisle, with the first leaving at 05:29 from Leeds and 05:50 from Carlisle. If that isn’t a schedule to get people into the hills for a heavy constitutional, then I don’t know what is? The train I rode was one of Northern Rail’s two coach Class 158s. It would be interesting to see how crowded these trains get in the summer! Obviously new trains are out of the question, but with the Manchester-Liverpool-Blackpool electrification, there might be some more of these Class 158s available. If those backing a direct Manchester to Carlisle service over the line, they’ll certainly be needed. But people have said to me, that there is a shortage of decent diesel multiple units in the UK.

Surely though, greater capacity on the line will help to generate tourism in the area and all the much-needed employment it creates!

As I write this note, it has been announced that the West coast Main Line has been closed due to overhead line problems at Penrith.  So like the problems I encountered last Saturday on Greater Anglia, there I suspect, a lot of frustrated passengers and rauilway managers and staff, wondering what is going to happen!

So perhaps one option might be to electrify Settle to Carlisle and the related Leeds to Morecambe line. This would provide a double-tracked by-pass from Carnforth to Carlisle. This option, which could also be used by freight trains is discussed here. Remember that the West Coast Main Line is mainly double-track, so an electrified Settle to Carlisle line, would give some extra much-needed capacity between the North of England and Scotland. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be a 200 kph like the West Coast Main Line. It certainly, is a line that can take heavy trains, as the media is always showing pictures of trains like steam driven excursions using the route.

As I indicated earlier, there is a shortage of diesel multiple units and this is often the reason that drives services on the UK’s railways. Greater Anglia run a deplorable service from Ipswich to Felixstowe using a single coach Class 153. But it’s not their fault that they can’t get hold of something bigger and better.  Nothing else exists!

I have said before that the High Speed Diesel Trains, that will be surplus to requirements after the introduction could be reused on some of the lines in the UK like Settle to Carlisle and Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. As Chiltern have shown, if the Mark 3 coaches are refurbished and returned to their original seat layout, they ride like Jaguars and are some of the finest trains in the world.

On Settle to Carlisle line, they would be ideal to allow the reinstatement of direct Glasgow to Leeds and East Midlands services, which currently go via Edinburgh.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the next few years, but without doubt, something will happen to invigorate the Settle to Carlisle line.

The line will outlive us all!

January 29, 2014 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Definitely my favourite line James. It goes through some very nice caving and walking country. Michael Portillo remarked on one of his rail journeys that the most memorable/important act of his as a politician was to keep the line open when British Rail wanted to close it. I agree.

    Comment by Jim S | January 30, 2014 | Reply

    • Everybody blames Beeching for the closures, but the real problem was British Rail. They were a bit over-zealous to say the least. Oxford to Cambridge and the Waverley line were closed against his wishes and now both are being re-instated.
      In Scotland, they tended on closure to leave the track bed and some closed lines have been reopened, but in England, they often sold off land to make reconstruction impossible. There is a need to re-open Cambridge to Sudbury, but it wouldn’t be possible. unless it was done as a single track guided busway. Cambridge seem to have got their’s working well.

      Comment by AnonW | January 30, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] We’re not talking massive sums on improving the line, but it shows that if you provide a better train service, it’ll get used, as I found out earlier this week on the Settle and Carlisle. […]

    Pingback by Suffolk Shows The Value Of Improving Train Services « The Anonymous Widower | February 1, 2014 | Reply


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