Film ID:
YFA 5825

NORTHERN LINE: THE END OF THE LINE?

1985

Visitor Tabs

Description

This is a documentary about the proposed closure of the Settle-Carlisle railway line made by Yorkshire Television as part of its Northern Line series.  The programme mainly consists of interviews with Ron Cotton, the British Rail project manager for the Settle-Carlisle Line, campaigner Peter Horton, civil engineer Christopher Wallace, and John Watson, Tory MP for Skipton, along with film of the line and some of the stations. 

The film begins showing a train in the distance crossing the Dent Head Viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle Railway.   It is then seen again from below, along with various places along the line.  A poster from British Rail announces the intention, under the Transport Act of 1962, to discontinue passenger services on the line from 1984.  At Settle Junction the signalman pulls the points as a train approaches.  Ron Cotton, the British Rail project manager for the Settle-Carlisle Line, crosses the line at Dent Station and explains that the British Rail Board is not concerned with preserving national heritage, but solely with running as a business enterprise.  A number of leaflets campaigning to keep the line open are shown.  One of the campaigners, Peter Horton, secretary of Joint Action Committee co-ordinating protest, walks up the hill near the Dent Head Viaduct with his son.  He argues that the line should stay open.  Ron Cotton concedes that there is more opposition to the line closure than they originally thought there would be.    

Members of the public are boarding a train at one of the stations, including Graham Nuttall with his border collie Ruswarp.  A woman recounts the life of a Victorian railway engineer John Sydney Crossley.   Two men give a brief history of the beginnings of the line and the building of it as the film shows the plaque in the church at Chapel-le-Dale that records the workers who died in its construction.  There are aerial views of the line and moorland with the Mike Donald song, ‘Settle Carlisle Railway’, playing in the background.

At a dilapidated Garsdale Station the two railway historians discuss the history of the station, while another man, not seen, talks about how bad the snow could be, with archive British Transport film, ‘Snowdrift at Bleath Gill’, from 1938.  Ron Cotton states that there hasn’t been any deliberate policy to run down the line, while a campaigner against closure argues that there has been a policy of “closure by stealth”, and cites a leaked set of Board minutes from 1980 that shows a decision being made to close the line, which he claims was illegal.   

The film switches to show civil engineer Christopher Wallace examining the Ribblehead Viaduct.  He says that the limestone rocks that make up the viaduct can take 9 ton per square inch, which is twice as much as the strongest concrete.  He claims that it has been neglected, but that could be repaired at a cost of about £500,000, while Ron Cotton maintains that the viaduct would need replacing at a cost of £6 million.  Christopher Wallace claims that some civil engineers have been fudging their studies. Ais Gill Summit can be seen as well as Appleby Station in the snow.  

Peter Horton argues that the indirect costs of closing the line, because of the loss of jobs, more roads etc., would exceed the costs of keeping it open.  A woman from Settle argues that closing the line would lead to the loss of a great deal of tourism which aids the local economy.  Again Ron Cotton states that this is a business decision that British Rail has to take.  A campaigner calls for a public enquiry.  The film ends showing a steam train from the air passing along the line, to the strains of Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

End Credits:
Yorkshire Television
Producer - Michael Harris
Director - Ian Macfarlane