Make use of the train this winter

A previous correspondent questions the value and usage of the winter Sundays’ Ribble Valley Rambler rail service between Preston, Blackburn, Clitheroe and Hellifield, including intermediate Ribble Valley stations, and suggests a service to and from Skipton would be more desirable.

The Rambler service was designed to reflect the shorter winter days to enable short trips on the Settle-Carlisle line, hence good connections at Hellifield. It is possible, for example, to have Sunday lunch in Appleby with plenty of time to walk round the town as well. This train is operated under Dales Rail provision and the DalesRail fares have been extended into May and will not go up until the summer DalesRail service is introduced.

The statement that he is not even sure if anyone ventured north of Hellifield can be answered with the fact I have witnessed that families and couples have travelled to the various Settle to Carlisle stations, including as far as Carlisle, as well as organised parties of walkers on various Sundays.

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An added, and perhaps unforeseen bonus, has been the use of the service in the other direction with passengers with suitcases using the trains for a direct journey to Preston to catch other long-distance trains north and south from there. There are good connections, for example to xx58 London and xx17 Birmingham services at Preston. This removes the usual need to change trains and perhaps platforms at Blackburn.

The suggested alternative of a Skipton service from Clitheroe is not on for a variety of reasons. The Rambler service is part of the franchise agreement under which the DalesRail (Blackpool-Preston-Clitheroe-Carlisle) service is operated under Government rules. The service and the trains provided for it cannot be simply transferred to a new service. A Skipton rail service could not compete with the four 280 and X80 Sunday bus services which operate between Clitheroe and Skipton either in journey time or fares.

The bus takes only 33 minutes and a train via Hellifield would take much longer - not only because the train would have to reverse at Hellifield to change direction but because such a reversal there is not possible with the existing trackwork infrastructure.

Rambler service trains travel empty to Settle Junction to cross over to the return track for the return journey. This would also increase journey time considerably. Fares would also be higher than on the bus when mileage is considered, and as a significant proportion of travellers between Clitheroe and Skipton, like myself, are over 60 years of age, I am sure they would (as I do) use their NOW cards for free travel on the bus rather than pay on a train.

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Necessary renewal and improvement work at Daisyfield Junction, Low Moor level crossing Clitheroe and other locations along the Ribble Valley railway line necessitate the use of a replacement bus service to Hellifield at present with the trains recommencing the Sunday before Christmas. Ribble Valley Rail looks forward to welcoming you on the trains for a short winter or early spring day out in the Dales in the New Year.

Peter Eastham

Secretary of Ribble Valley Rail user group for the Ribble Valley Line.