A tourism and jobs boost is on the cards for Ryedale after the North Yorkshire Moors Railway revealed it has been handed £500,000 for a major investment programme.
The cash will be put towards a £2.876 million project to improve the heritage railway line between Pickering and Whitby.
Railway chiefs say the local economy can expect a shot in the arm as they will be able to run more services and offer a better quality of journey.
The anticipated increase in passenger footfall should also create employment opportunities at businesses who benefit from the presence of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.
The money was donated by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, the body which brings business and councils across the area to try and grow the economy.
Its chairman, Barry Dodd, said: “Not only will this help businesses to attract and retain high quality employees, it also gives us a new opportunity to attract tourists who will be introduced to the area with the launch of The Tour de France later this year.
“We were disappointed the Tour de France is not coming to the east of York but clearly it is going to be a major event in Yorkshire and we are hoping more people come to this part of world and spill over into the major scenic tourist areas of the North York Moors and the coast.”
Philip Benham, NYMR’s general manager, said: “We are clearly delighted to have this very positive endorsement by the Local Enterprise Partnership in the importance of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to the regional economy.
“This generous funding will help us drive forward an accelerated programme of infrastructure renewals and improvements – focusing particularly on track, signalling and bridges.
“Alongside the separately funded second platform scheme at Whitby, the work will prepare us well for future expansion anticipated over the next couple of years. We plan and expect to see an increase in passenger demand as a result of both the enhanced Whitby train service and gradually improving economic conditions.”
There are already two “tangible examples” of the benefits of the funding, added Mr Benham.
“First, at Grosmont, the work to install signalling at the north end is proceeding apace, including re-commissioning the former Falsgrave signal gantry from Scarborough. This is an essential scheme to enable trains to and from Whitby to pass at Grosmont. Second is the programme of almost one and half miles of track renewals taking place between Pickering and Levisham.
“The LEP funding, together with the generous support of one of our benefactors, is hugely helpful in enabling this go ahead. Next winter will see more major track renewals and vital refurbishment to a number of bridges.”
The investment comes as the railway prepares to open the second track and platform at Whitby Station, a moved which will allow NYMR to increase the number of trains arriving at the coast from three to five per day. The NYMR hope the work will be ready for the main summer tourist period in July