Train speeds are set to double for the first time in 40 years this weekend as a temporary speed restriction is lifted over a mile-long section of the Settle to Carlisle line.
The stretch of track through Kirkby Thore was given a thorough makeover in the summer when Network Rail spent over £6m strengthening the line to protect it from sink holes caused by gypsum mining.
Network Rail route director Jo Kaye said: “The speed restriction was put on because the ground around the line was unstable and there was a real risk that it could affect the stability of the track.
“During a three week closure of the line we rebuilt one road bridge, strengthened another, filled in a third that was no longer required, and laid huge concrete slabs underneath the track that can withstand any ground movement.”
Mark Rand, chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, complimented Network Rail on the work. “The need for trains to slow down at Kirkby Thore has been a problem on the Settle-Carlisle Line for decades. The fact that Network Rail has invested so heavily to deal with the problem is an indication of the importance of today’s line, which was under threat of closure 20 years ago. The line now operates round the clock. Passenger and freight trains will benefit enormously. The mile or so of reinforced track at Kirkby Thore has been a notable success.”
“Network Rail went to great lengths to minimise the impact on the countryside and we thank them for that too. Passengers will hardly notice where this major work took place so very recently. The entire 72 mile length of the Settle-Carlisle Line is a Conservation Area – and nowadays an incredibly busy modern railway.”
The removal of the 30mph speed restriction will mean a saving of around 90 seconds for passenger services and nearly five minutes for freight trains, which will improve the overall punctuality of all trains on the line.