Pace is gathering behind a campaign aimed at restoring a train service between Whitby and York .
Almost 700 people signed an internet petition organised by the Whitby to York rail link group within 48 hours of it appearing online and campaigners say that they are “very confident” of succeeding in their aims.
The group, formed only 18 days ago, are petitioning central government in the hope of securing funding which would allow six miles of track to be re-laid between Rillington and Pickering, thus connecting Whitby with the line leading directly to York.
Speaking on the group’s behalf, Whitby-born Neil Kipling said: “Restoring this rail link would not only be good news for Whitby, but it would also benefit North Yorkshire.
“It is not a new idea, it has been mooted before but with the advent of High Speed 2 travel, I think we find ourselves in a situation where the government cannot ignore the need to allow rural areas access to mainline railways.
“The response has been absolutely amazing and as a result I’m very confident that with so much support behind us we can succeed.”
The termination of Whitby to Malton passenger services were announced in September 1964 and the line closed the following year.
It is currently possible to travel by train between Whitby and York but the journey involves changing at Middlesbrough and can take more than three hours to complete.
In order to restore Whitby’s rail link to York via Malton, a complete restructuring of Rillington junction would be necessary along with the re-laying of six miles of track to connect the line to Pickering.
Mr Kipling believes that these steps are both achievable and affordable.
“The work that needs to be done is certainly not an impossibility in this day and age,” he said.
“The track beds are already in existence and some signal boxes also remain.
“We feel that as a group we could raise a significant amount of the money needed to undertake the work.
“There are examples of the government granting funding for the restoration of lines in both Derbyshire and north of the border, so it seems that the government are willing and able to back such schemes.”
According to the Mr Kipling, the benefits of the restoration of the rail link would be varied and far-reaching.
He added: “The rail link would not only provide better transport options but it would bring more people to the area, which would benefit tourism and local businesses.
“There are environmental benefits too. North Yorkshire’s roads can’t cope as it is and better rail links would take cars off the road.”
The successful operation of services between Whitby and York would be dependant on the consent of North Yorkshire Moors Railway which owns and operates the line between Pickering and Grosmont.
Mr Kipling said that attempts have been made to contact NYMR in order to initiate a discussion on the subject.
“Of course we would be happy to work alongside NYMR. To move our plans forward from where we are now is dependant on us entering into dialogue with them.
“We genuinely believe that this is the way forward for NYMR and would attract more people, greater footfall and increased income for both the railway and the region.”
Despite the optimism expressed by the group, Robert Goodwill, MP for Whitby and parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport, feels that the plans are destined to hit the buffers sooner rather than later.
He said: “I love railways and I would encourage people to use them as a sustainable mode of transport but I think this idea is a non-starter.
“It is not a new notion, and it is something that I have looked at very carefully and it just isn’t going to happen.
“In an ideal world, it is a nice idea, but it isn’t practical. Buildings in Pickering would have to be demolished, and using NYMR track would prove problematic.”