A HERITAGE railway has launched an emergency appeal for £100,000 amid warnings a disastrous landslip is a serious threat to the future of the line through the Yorkshire Dales.

Ths year was due to be one of the busiest and most lucrative in the history of the Wensleydale Railway with the arrival of the Tour de France.

But volunteers have been stopped in their tracks by the major landslip, which is undermining the line.

They are now appealing for donations and help to try to get the line open before the start of the main tourist season at Easter.

The 16 mile long line, which runs through some of the most scenic parts of Wensleydale, is currently closed at Akebar  near Leyburn.

An embankment which collapsed last year and was repaired at a cost of £40,000 has now collapsed again. Rail managers say this is a more serious fault, which will cost £100,000 to fix.

General Manager, Nigel Park said: "This problem has the potential to disrupt the whole 2014 season which would be disastrous, particularly with the need for us to transport people to Leyburn for the Tour de France and our ability to keep freight off the roads as equipment returns from Afghanistan.

“The railway is growing each year and bringing more tourist business into the area, with almost 45,000 passengers travelling in 2013. But we do need help if we are to be able to keep developing this important community asset."

Train movements along the line have been stopped. Network Rail still own the line but Mr Park said it is not offering to help, so volunteers are getting on with the job themselves, with support from the rail industry.

The line is known as the great survivor because it has kept going. Built in the 1850s, the passenger service closed in the 1950s, but freight traffic taking limestone to Teesside ensured it carried on, backed by Army traffic transporting tanks.

Ten years ago volunteers relaunched the railway with a passenger service from Leeming Bar to Redmire with plans to connect to Northallerton.

Mr Park said donations towards the repair can be made through the website www.wensleydalerailway.com or contacting Leeming Bar Station, Leases Road, Leeming Bar, DL7 9AR.