Political U-turns that saved the UK’s favourite steam main line

By Geoff Courtney

A series of previously unreported political U-turns and manoeuvrings in the Westminster corridors of power that culminated in the unexpected decision to keep open the Settle to Carlisle line – one of the most popular railways in the UK today for steam train operators, enthusiasts and linesiders – has been revealed in a new book written and published by a former senior NHS manager.

LMS Jubilee 4-6-0 No. 45699 Galatea crosses Lunds viaduct with a Statesman Rail ‘Fellsman’ working. BRIAN SHARPE

Martin Pearson has made extensive use of the Freedom of Information Act to write what he describes as “as near the official record as one can get of what really happened”.

The book reveals a litany of events throughout the 1980s that reached its climax on April 11, 1989, when the-then Transport Minister, Michael Portillo, informed the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line that its long-fought battle to keep the route open had succeeded.

Indeed, it is Portillo who sets the scene in a foreword in the 86 page publication – a foreword that is refreshing for its honesty and revelationary in its content. He reveals that when he became Transport Minister in the summer of 1988, his predecessor, David Mitchell – “a man of old-fashioned good manners” – told him: “You have to save the Settle-Carlisle.”

Read more in Issue 224 of Heritage Railway – out now!

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