A LONG-held dream to extend a heritage railway line has won the support of district councillors.

Hambleton District Council's cabinet has backed plans to award the Wensleydale Railway Association £40,000 to help open the line between Northallerton and Leeming Bar.

The cash would be used for a £51,000 scheme to upgrade the railway infrastructure as well as create a temporary platform, to be known as Northallerton West, at Castle Hills and provide a passenger service.

“By opening up a passenger line between Leeming Bar and Northallerton, employment opportunities for the two areas will be boosted,” said council leader Mark Robson.

“It will also mean that our tourism infrastructure will be given a lift – visitors will be able to travel into Bedale and the Dales direct from Northallerton.”

Last year the association saw 45,000 passengers use its trains and that is expected to rise with this summer’s Tour de France. The new link is expected to add another 12,500 users this year.

The association operates the 22 miles of line between Northallerton and Redmire on a lease from Network Rail.

It was reopened to passenger services in 2003 linking Leyburn to Leeming Bar. Twelve months later it was extended to Redmire – and Bedale Station was reopened.

The line from Northallerton has remained open for freight traffic – but the new scheme will see its use extended to passengers.

Coun Robson added: “The Railway Association is an impressive body - over the last 20 years it has sustained itself mostly through voluntary commitment. We hope to continue our relationship with this excellent local organisation.”