§ Mr. Channon
I have now completed my consideration of British Rail's proposal to close the Settle-Carlisle railway. Having reviewed all the evidence, I have decided to refuse closure consent for this line as well as for the associated Blackburn-Hellifield line. A number of factors have changed since I announced last year that I was minded to give consent to closure.
There have been changes in the financial case. For example, following the trial repairs to Ribblehead viaduct that I requested last year, it now seems that it will be much cheaper to repair the whole structure than previously thought, and a new survey by the local authorities suggests that traffic on the line has continued to grow and that significantly more people are travelling for essential purposes. British Rail has estimated that revenue on the line is some 40 per cent. higher in 1988–89 than in 1987–88. I believe that there is scope for increasing revenue further by better marketing of the line and by the pricing of tourist journeys on a more commercial basis. The line may continue to run at a loss, but not necessarily a large one. As required by statute, I have also taken account of new evidence on hardship and the line's importance to the local economy.
The private sector has shown interest in the line and I want it to be involved in helping to develop it. I have asked the chairman of British Rail to see what private sector involvement can be arranged to make the most of marketing and operating the line.
The local authorities are committed to co-operating with British Rail and other organisations to support and promote the line. It has been proposed that a trust fund be set up to care for the structures on the line of heritage importance. I support that proposal. I also look to all who have promised to support the line to work together to ensure that it has a successful future and so that the case for closure will not re-emerge.