THE timing of an announcement for a reduction in social distancing by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with a further easing of restrictions has come at a perfect time for the launch of a new thrice daily luxury charter train, which will operate over the scenic Settle & Carlisle line this summer.
For eight weeks, new entrant to the market, Rail Charter Services, will run trains between Skipton and Appleby from July 12 to September 20.
Running under the safety case of Locomotive Services TOC Ltd, these trains are a separate product to the Statesman trains or the tours run by Saphos Trains.
Backed by city fund manager and locomotive owner Jeremy Hosking, a director of LSL, the idea for the summer service stems from former BBC World Service journalist Adrian Quine. He said it took just eight weeks to develop the idea.
Speaking to The RM, Mr Quine said: “This service really is ground breaking for the rail industry. This is the first time that a dedicated timetabled tourist train has operated in England and has the potential to be a game changer in other popular areas of high seasonal demand.
“A lot of work has gone into negotiating these exciting new services with our industry partners and stakeholders and we are delighted to be able to bring some post covid-19 cheer to families at this difficult time.
“We are working closely with Northern, The Rail Delivery Group, Network Rail and the Settle to Carlisle Development Company all of whom have shown both pragmatism and a genuine willingness to get this exciting new service up and running. These services will be a proof of concept for the future and they will promote tourism.”
What RCS is planning could become a template for a new type of railtour operation, paving the way for a similar approach in other parts of the country. By moving away from the ‘one-size fits all’ approach of the traditional all-day railtour, passengers could be offered a more bespoke option with a choice of a short or longer day out and add-on excursions.
The trains will be top-and-tailed by LSL Class 47s hauling a rake of four ex-Greater Anglia Mk 3 first open carriages and a Mk2 BFK which is not for public use.
In order to maintain the current two metre social distancing, only window seats will be sold and LSL is installing Perspex screens between each seat bay, which will give a capacity of 128 seats per train.
Three return trips a day between Skipton and Appleby, calling and setting down at Settle, will operate from Monday to Saturday between July 20 and September 12. Return fares for the 112 mile round trip start at just £29 per person. Tickets will be sold on a ‘day return’ basis offering passengers the option to book a short or long day out, and there will be onward tour options for a coach tour to the Lake District. Sales will initially be in pairs to people from the same household or social bubble. In addition, the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company will provide pop up catering stalls at Settle and Appleby stations, providing locally sourced food and drinks as well as at their café at Skipton With a timetable designed to offer opportunities to passengers from both Skipton and Appleby ends of the line, bookings can be for one of three colour coded train combinations giving the opportunity for a short or long day out. The provisional timings are:
Settle 09.00 12.40
Appleby 10.00 13.35
Appleby 17.55 14.30
Settle 18.48 15.26
Skipton 19.08 15.47
Tickets can only be booked online at www.railcharterservices.co.ukEnjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.