The promoters (Ribble Valley Borough Council? Ribble Valley Rail Group?) of a scheme to reinstate regular public transport services between Clitheroe and Hellifield have been successful in their bid for an award from the Department for Transport Restoring Your Railway Fund that will help fund the development of a business case.
DfT describes the purpose of the scheme as “to reintroduce passenger services between Clitheroe and Hellifield and explore freight options”.
Clitheroe is a Lancashire town situated 10 miles (16 km) north of Blackburn. The station is the northern terminus of the Ribble Valley line (a.k.a. Clitheroe Line) operated by Northern Trains.
The line from here continues northwards towards Hellifield, but this section is normally used only by freight and engineering trains on weekdays; passenger services are limited to a pair of Sundays only Dalesrail charter trains and occasional railtours. The line also forms part of a valuable strategic diversionary route between Preston and Carlisle, which is utilised if planned engineering work blocks the West Coast Main Line over Shap.
Also on Sundays in the summer, a train operates from Blackpool North, Preston and Blackburn and along the Ribble Valley Line via Clitheroe to Hellifield and onwards towards Carlisle in the summer (this terminates/starts here in the winter, but with an onward connection north). This service, ‘Dalesrail’, is operated by Northern Trains. There are plans for more services from Clitheroe. The Ribble Valley Rail group is campaigning for this route to be re-opened.
The line has been a useful diversionary route for when the West Coast Main Line (WCML) has been closed for repairs and has also seen freight traffic use it. There have been periodic calls for the final section north from Clitheroe to be re-opened to passenger traffic to provide a connection with the Leeds to Carlisle services at Hellifield. In 2020, the UK Government announced a £500 million fund to enable groups and campaigners to pay for business cases on reopening proposals. The section of line between Hellifield and Clitheroe was in the initial ten proposals that were approved for funding by the government. The bid by campaigners suggests reopening the stations at Rimington, Chatburn, Gisburn and Newsholme with a provision for trains from Clitheroe to run southwards to Leeds after arriving at Hellifield, rather than continuing north to Carlisle. A newly introduced passenger service would increase services southwards from Clitheroe to half-hourly as opposed to the current level of one service per hour.
Source: Ribble Valley line – Wikipedia.
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Part of Northern Trains network map showing Clitheroe, Hellifield and the missing link | Download complete map (pdf)
Ribble Valley Borough Council call for restoration of rail services to Hellifield to link Clitheroe with Leeds, Bradford, Skipton and Lancaster with Clitheroe service to Manchester Victoria, on Ribble Valley Conservative Association website