FoSCL strategy launched

Strategy for the next Northern England franchise and beyond

We and our partners have greatly increased the number of passengers travelling between Settle and Carlisle.  With better rolling stock we could further develop passenger traffic.  Modest investment in 3-car long-distance trains would show a substantial return.
Our surveys have shown a considerable demand for travel from the Yorkshire Dales and Eden Valley to Manchester Airport in addition to the existing demand for walking and other leisure travel from Lancashire to the Dales.  We have produced a business case for a new Manchester-Carlisle service via the Settle-Carlisle Line in both directions.
Our surveys have also shown a demand for a modest improvement in the Leeds-Carlisle service.  In the short term there is a case for a departure from Leeds between 1449 and 1806 to plug this existing gap of over three hours.
There is a need for better connections at Carlisle to Newcastle and Dumfries.
We have a long-standing wish for an increase in the line speed to 75 mph from the present maximum of 60 mph. 
As part of our proposals for a new service to Lancashire, we would like to see signalling improvements at Hellifield to allow trains to turn round there.

Rolling Stock
The SCRDC has done wonders in promoting group bookings on the line, on some trains doubling the number of passengers.  FoSCL works closely with the SCRDC to encourage and support tourist groups.
We are now constrained by lack of rolling stock.  We no longer advertise for group bookings and sometimes have to turn groups away to avoid severe overcrowding.  The number of carriages on any given train is unpredictable: it can vary between 2 and 4.  In order to realise the potential for tourism in the Yorkshire Dales and the Eden Valley, and thereby maximise the benefit to the local economy, it is imperative that we have a 3-car standard of appropriate trains, not the commuter rolling stock that we have at present.
The top end of the tourist market is served by the steam specials run by charter operators.  These are expensive and highly seasonal, typically running only in the summer holiday period.  Booked groups on scheduled services are typically coach parties and represent in the main the lower end of the market but do cover most of the year.  We believe that there is a large untapped middle market and a considerable overseas market that we could attract but we will not attempt to do so until we have acceptable rolling stock. 
Direct Service to Manchester
There is an hourly service on weekdays from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe.  There are six trains every weekday between Leeds and Carlisle in each direction which stop at Hellifield.  The 12-mile stretch of modern double track between Clitheroe and Hellifield is unused for regular passenger services.  This is a missing link in the national rail network. 
For years the only semi-regular use for passengers has been the Lancashire Dalesrail summer Sunday specials bringing walkers from Lancashire into the Yorkshire Dales.  This market is declining with increasing average age of the participants.  Government and TOCs have only ever considered this one-way travel.
FoSCL has now looked at the demand for travel in the opposite direction, notably from the Eden Valley and the Dales to Manchester and airport.  We have uncovered a massive demand, with over 50% of the population flying regularly from Manchester and almost all travelling there by car.  There is unquestionably a business case for direct services to and from Lancashire.
Improved Leeds-Carlisle service
After two years of explosive growth in 2010 and 2011, passenger numbers have levelled off in 2012.  Competition from the West Coast Main Line and the East Coast Main Line means that we have to fight for our rightful share of the Anglo-Scottish traffic.  To this end FoSCL is campaigning for greater prominence to be given to the S&C in online booking systems. 
Some people would like to see an hourly service between Leeds and Carlisle.  With the competition from WCML and ECML and sparse population north of Skipton, we cannot justify this.  In the medium term we would like to see a regular two-hourly service instead of the rather spasmodic present pattern with 3-hour gaps.  We recognise however that with current train loadings this is unrealistic and in the short term are looking for two minor improvements to the existing timetable:
1.An additional departure from Leeds at say 1649, to plug the gap between 1449 and 1806. This is the one unsolicited request for improvement that we often get from passengers. This train could then return from Carlisle at around 2000, giving an evening departure to Leeds. At present the last train leaves at 1818.
2.There is a 2057 departure from Carlisle on the five Thursdays before Christmas, when there is late shopping.  This train turns round at Kirkby Stephen at 2200 and returns to Carlisle.  There is evidence of demand for such a train on Saturdays throughout the year and we would like to see this trialled, not just for people returning home from Carlisle but for those who, especially in the summer months, might like to spend the evening in the Eden Valley and go for a meal or a drink in the country.
Better connections
Connections at Carlisle with the Tyne Valley line and the Glasgow & SW line are badly timed.  Trains for Newcastle or Dumfries often leave Carlisle just before the train from Leeds arrives.  We consistently get complaints about this and would strongly request that these timings be looked at as soon as possible.
We have a long-standing aspiration for a maximum speed of 75 mph on the Settle-Carlisle Line, compared with 60 mph at present.  While this would not massively shorten the journey time, it would help in the competition with the WCML and ECML and increase passenger numbers.  So far this proposal has completed stage 2 in Network Rail's GRIP process and we would like to see it expedited. 
Signalling at Hellifield Station: presently trains are unable to turn round there on a regular basis.  We would like to see improvements to the signalling to allow this to happen.
In the longer term we should like to see reinstatement of the bay platform at Hellifield. 
We support doubling of the track around Darwen as a means of increasing the frequency of the service from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe, with consequent benefit to our plans for a through service to Manchester.
Richard Morris
Chairman, Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line
20th February 2013
t:  016974 72084
m: 07875 534424

Last updated by Richard Morris on 12/01/2014