On track for commuter and tourism boost

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A new early morning train service has been added to the timetable which will provide a commuter link between Whitby, the Esk Valley and beyond.

The new Northern Rail franchise made the announcement this week.

The extra service will be operational on weekdays and Sunday morning between Whitby and the Esk Valley.

Welcoming the news, Alan Williams, chairman of the Esk Valley Railway Community Partnership said: “The new early morning service will enable commuters and students to get to Middlesbrough before 9am each day, and allow patients and visitors to reach the new James Cook hospital station much earlier in the day, while the year-round Sunday service will provide for the growing number of winter visitors to Whitby and the National Park”.

In the last five years alone, the Community Rail Partnership has seen a 43 per cent growth in ridership, and passenger numbers are expected to top half a million this year with plans to secure more trains during the day from Whitby to destinations beyond Middlesbrough such as Darlington, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Newcastle.

The announcement comes on the 50th anniversary of the infamous ‘Beeching Axe’ - a restructure of the railways in Great Britain which saw the Grosmont to connection closed down.

However, from the ashes of that controversial decision, a group of dedicated volunteers banded together 42 years ago and worked tirelessly to re-open the line as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway – today the world’s most popular heritage railway.

To mark the anniversary, this weekend will see the railway host a wide range of engines which will have been seen when the line closed, including The Great Marquess and Sir Nigel Gresley.

Today (Friday) two locos – 61994 and 62005 – will work a special Pullman dining train to commemorate completion of the project to rebuild a second platform at Whitby station and to thank the team of volunteers, staff and partners involved in the project.

In recognition of this first for a UK heritage railway, along with operating a shared station with Network Rail and the associated re-signalling at Grosmont, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway took home the top honour at the Heritage Railway Association awards in December.

Managing director Philip Benham said: “We are extremely proud of the achievements of the last half-century since Dr Beeching wielded his infamous axe. This major award by the Heritage Railway Association is fantastic recognition for the railway, and we are very much looking forward to celebrating all that NYMR has achieved over the years.”

As part of commemorations, there is an exhibition, Last Train to York, at Pickering station until October 1.