It is 50 years ago this month that Ripon railway station closed. Half a century on, a campaign to reconnect the North Yorkshire cathedral city to the railway network is gathering steam. Peter Barron reports

AS a boy of four or five, Adrian Morgan’s passion for railways was ignited on marathon train journeys from his family home in Gloucestershire to visit his grandparents in West Cumberland.

On those long, nine-hour trips, his mother would keep him entertained by giving him an exercise book and a pencil so he could write down the numbers of the steam engines as they clattered by.

It is a love which has never left him throughout his life’s journey which has seen him end up as the Mayor of his adopted city of Ripon in North Yorkshire. And, as Ripon’s first citizen, he freely admits that the restoration of the city’s railway station has become “something of an obsession”.

Ripon railway station said goodbye to its last passengers in March 1967 when the route from Harrogate to Northallerton became one of the many victims of Dr Richard Beeching’s mass cuts in a brutal restructuring of Britain’s railway network. Dr Morgan describes it as Ripon’s “biggest disaster in living memory”.

He first arrived in North Yorkshire in 1966 when he reported to RAF Leeming to train as a pilot. It was during his time in North Yorkshire that he met his wife-to-be, Robbie, who now serves as Ripon’s Mayoress.

“Robbie’s from Ripon and it’s a beautiful place so that’s where we made our home,” he says.

After leaving the RAF, he attained a place at Leeds Medical School and went on to have a successful career as a dentist, but the railways continued to dominate much of his spare time.

In the 1980s, he served on the committee that successfully fought to save the Settle-Carlisle line.

Once that historic route had been saved, his job was done but there was another railway rescue mission waiting: the battle to reopen a station at Ripon.

The campaign is partly driven by a sense of history. The route from Ripon station to Thirsk town station (now a Tesco supermarket) opened on June 1, 1848, as part of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway Company, although freight trains had already been running for a few months to bed in the track.

The network across North Yorkshire quickly grew and, by 1922, 27 passenger trains a day were stopping at Ripon, reducing to 24 in 1951 and 19 at closure in 1967.

“Beeching was looking to cut anything he could and Ripon was seen as surplus to requirements,” says Dr Morgan.

But what Beeching didn’t take into account was that much of Ripon’s rail traffic came from the local army camp and was, therefore, paid by the Ministry of Defence rather than through the booking office. The figures were, therefore, grossly underestimated.

“It should never have closed,” says Dr Morgan.

His campaign – or obsession – to reverse the decision is 30 years old this month and it is based not just that rich history, stretching way back to 1848, but on the sheer practicalities of a growing community.

“Ripon and Richmond are the only two market towns in North Yorkshire without a railway and that’s a huge disadvantage,” he says. “Ripon is expanding rapidly as a commuter city for Harrogate and Leeds.”

He further points out that the A61, between Ripon and Harrogate, is the most air polluted corridor in North Yorkshire, with the exception of the A1 motorway south of Dishforth.

Although Ripon’s Army camp will close next year, the city’s population is due to expand by 8,000 by 2025, with major housing development planned.

It was, therefore, with a sense of urgency that Dr Morgan stood to be elected as an independent member of Ripon City Council in 2015 so that he could apply more pressure to the railway campaign.

He is convinced that significant progress is being made. At the beginning of this year, the city council voted unanimously to support a feasibility study into reopening the line from Northallerton to Harrogate, with a stop at Ripon.

Dr Morgan wants the results of that study to be ready for September so that they can be incorporated into plans by Network Rail to re-signal the Harrogate-York route in two years’ time. He is confident that the “benefit cost analysis” will be positive.

“It is something I want to see happen in my lifetime and I’m certain we are getting there,” he says.

Fifty years after the closure of Ripon station, and 30 years after Dr Adrian Morgan’s campaign began, it seems there is finally a light at the end of a very long, dark railway tunnel.