Aysgarth Station - Wensleydale Railway

Discussion in 'Railtours & Preservation' started by Worf, 12 Aug 2017.

  1. Worf

    Worf Member

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    New to this forum, so I hope I have posted this in the right place

    As a shareholder, I have just had notification that Wensleydale Railway PLC Board, in concert with the Trust, are proposing to sell (currently disused) Aysgarth Station and trackbed to a private party. This person proposes to reinstate all the track, import rolling stock and run a "private" railway. There are proposed to be no covenants attached to the sale, so he can actually do just what he wants and there will be nothing to stop him running a "rival" Wensleydale railway.

    The station is one of only a few assets owned by the PLC (current trackbed leased from Network Rail), and is really the "jewel in the crown" for a future extension. A lot of hard work has already been put in by volunteers here and although the track is not in place, the buildings have been restored, there is a cafe on "open days" and the station cottage is let out as a holiday cottage at a profit. All this will be lost, plus the chance ever to reach Hawes or Garsdale.

    The income gained from the sale will at best only keep the railway going for a few years. The competition of another "Wensleydale Railway" may well hasten the demise of the present setup.

    Whilst I understand that the Company are struggling financially, there must be a way out of the situation without selling off the "family jewels". Extending the line to Aysgarth, which is a tourist "honey pot" would help secure the future of the railway, and is the most scenic part of the line.
    Apparently, the asking price is £400,000, which isn't a lot to safeguard the long term future of the railway.

    A vote on this will be made at the AGM of the PLC (Sat 9th. September)

    They are currently not allowing comment or discussion on this on their Facebook page, but there must be another way forward.
     
  2. alexl92

    alexl92 Established Member

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    Surely this is totally counter-productive? After Castle Bolton, Aysgarth is the next stage on from Redmire if my brief inspection of a map is correct. If they sell now, the value of the land will most likely only increase, making it harder to buy/lease back, and lets be honest there is no guarantee that this buyer will use it for ANYTHING railway related. Could just build on the track bed surely?

    Worf, is there any reason why members of the public cannot write to the trust to object?
     
  3. Worf

    Worf Member

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    My sentiments entirely. The Trust are all volunteers, so I don't see any reason why you shouldnt contact them.

    According to their own aims "As part of this, one of the primary goals of the WRA(T) is to campaign for the reinstatement of the railway from Northallerton to Garsdale"

    http://www.wensleydalerail.com/volunteering/wensleydale-railway-association-trust-ltd/
     
    Last edited: 12 Aug 2017
  4. STEVIEBOY1

    STEVIEBOY1 Established Member

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    This does seem to rather strange. I was only on the Wensleydale last week. I know it has been their intention to extend both ways, to get better access at North Allerton and going west wards to the Falls and Hawes which would be great in themselves and in the end back to Garsdale, I suppose this could happen if a new owner were to end on from Redmire to Aysgarth and Hawes but would this be certain to happen.?
     
  5. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    the answer is simple: Make your vote as a shareholder count
     
  6. Harpers Tate

    Harpers Tate Member

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    It looks like an admission that there is no hope whatsoever of extending west.
     
  7. Worf

    Worf Member

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    Agreed. Unfortunately, that end of the line is where all the tourists are. Whilst running services to Northallerton might sound like a good idea, it only makes sense if it were possible to run into the existing station, which is pretty much impossible. The scenery at the Northallerton end is pretty uninteresting, and Northallerton itself (and Leeming Bar) are hardly tourist destinations.
     
  8. Gathursty

    Gathursty Established Member

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    Is it possible to have an open dialogue with this private person to see if they are really going to put some track down or are just a front for some one with other ideas?

    If they are at least railway minded, maybe use soft power to get them on side and perhaps work together to get to Aysgarth?

    Another idea, could be to sell the railway land from Bedale to Northallerton and throw that money into extending to Aysgarth and perhaps ultimately Garsdale?
     
  9. Worf

    Worf Member

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    Unfortunately, all the existing track is leased from Network Rail so their only assets "on the ground" are a few stations. I don't know who the "private person" is . He is referred to as a "wealthy railway-focused individual", who may be totally genuine; however, what happens if he gets bored and decides to sell to someone else?
     
  10. STEVIEBOY1

    STEVIEBOY1 Established Member

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    I just had a look at an old railway atlas and I did not realise quite how far west Hawes is from the Redmire end of the Wensleydale railway.
     
  11. alexl92

    alexl92 Established Member

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    Absolutely; but just one won't be enough. Presumably the OP hopes that by posting here, the wider heritage community may also contribute at least by trying to change the minds of those who are in favour.
     
  12. ThetrackMaster

    ThetrackMaster Member

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    Hi Chaps

    Read the post, I am aware that there is a local group putting together an alternative bid to match the offer of the third party.

    The third party would appear not to want to open the site to the public, however the group I have heard is going to;

    1). Keep status quo of site as a very big visitor and much needed attraction in the western end of the Yorkshire dales

    2). Open and operate a small rail demo line on site

    3). Theres talk of making it a venue for open air concerts

    4). Allow the WR the use of the platforms if ever they get to Aysgarth - I know this is a big question and IF for the WR?

    For me this sounds the type of group I would like to succeed. Evidently theres a group called TASP which have been looking after the site. I don't know whether they are behind this but someone said they may be the guys to contact.

    I have heard there is a few wealthy individuals who are looking to invest and maybe looking at others who want a slice of the action.

    I hope it succeeds as this sounds like a really good idea and sort of preserves the ambition of the WR to get to Aysgarth.

    I think if they don't hang onto this dream then the WR may be dead in water
     
  13. ThetrackMaster

    ThetrackMaster Member

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    There is a strong rumour going around that its the chap who owns that place at Steamtown
     
  14. Worf

    Worf Member

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    Trackmaster, do you have any contact details the group that are behind the matching bid?
    Working together seems to be the way forward.
     
  15. ThetrackMaster

    ThetrackMaster Member

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    All I know is theres several persons getting together to discuss the way forward.

    I'd contact someone from TASP who may be able to point you in the right direction.

    Theres a chap I've come across a few times when I have been visiting Aysgarth on Open Days. Have you come across Neil Guest?
     
  16. Max

    Max Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I'd be surprised if the railway was abandoning their ambition to reach Aysgarth so soon after this: http://www.richmondshiretoday.co.uk...tension-positive-effect-economy-report-finds/

    As has already been said, Aysgarth would unlock a huge amount of potential new revenue for the railway given the number of tourists that visit the area. I do fear that a full sale would really undermine their plans. Surely some kind of joint venture or even a lease of the site would potentially be more lucrative in the long term, and unlock the capital needed?
     
  17. Worf

    Worf Member

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    Don't know him personally, but I will make some enquiries. Many thanks.
     
  18. Worf

    Worf Member

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    Thats what I thought, but the letter sent to shareholders stated "It is recognised that this would have an impact on the overall aim to reach Hawes in due course, but the inescapable fact is that the railways chances of even reachingAysgarth with its own resources, when it cant even afford to maintain the current stretch of track, are virtually nil!"

    Sounds as though they have given up to me.
     
  19. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    they have faced some serious infrastructure challenges over recent years which must have really drained cash reserves. Perhaps they have decided that keeping what they have is better than extending, frustrating as that may be.
     
  20. WensleyDale

    WensleyDale Member

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    Hi
    I'm also new to this forum but been attracted by the discussion surrounding Aysgarth Station. I'm not a shareholder of Wensleydale Railway but I am a member of the Wensleydale Railway Association (Trust) and I am an active volunteer including lots work at Aysgarth (renovation work, helping out at public open days, etc). The news that the station is to be sold came completely out of the blue, no discussions with the volunteers, and the timetable (4 weeks between notification and an intended vote at the AGM) appears designed to prevent counter-offers that might keep the site as a community asset. It is extremely concerning that WR appears unwilling to extract and guarantees from the proposed buyer. Anyone can promise to lay track etc but once the site is sold it could equally become one rich man's fantasy playground with no public access. If WR had any feelings for the future of its prime asset (once described as the jewel in the crown) it would least put the matter forward to wider consultation.
     
  21. Worf

    Worf Member

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  22. ThetrackMaster

    ThetrackMaster Member

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    Worf - I thought I'd heard about Neil Guest recently - Presumably you get the WR House Magazine?
    Well when I go to Leyburn on occasions I try and buy back issues of RELAY. Well there was a recent article in the last edition about Aysgarth wrote by him and he's the electrical guy on the WR. see stuff before. His email was in the article.
    Th ironic thing is he was asking for materials for the site, so I guess he didn't know about the proposed sale then or else he wouldn't have wrote it!!!
    Must have been a quick decision by someone in authority?
     
  23. WensleyDale

    WensleyDale Member

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  24. Worf

    Worf Member

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    DOH! Thanks for that, couldnt find his details online and should have looked there first.
     
  25. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    I am very surprised at this. Given that there are several cities within easy reach (and having seen what the GWSR people have almost finished doing) I can't believe that they couldn't have launched an appeal that would have provided any money needed.

    Maybe it is just that the current people are exhausted and can't see how to go forward? I was in a club in the same situation about 30 years ago; following yet another negative defeatist diatribe from the chairman, the AGM voted in a completely new committee, and it has gone from strength to strength ever since.
     
  26. WensleyDale

    WensleyDale Member

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    Andrew, I couldn't agree more. The current Board is appears to be completely devoid of ideas. The fact that the Wensleydale Railway is in dire financial straits can only be an indictment of the ruling body's incompetence.
    Let me put forward a new hypothesis: If the supposed buyer of Aysgarth has sufficient wealth to buy the site and, according to the AGM agenda, "is willing and able to pay to extend the track not just eastwards to Redmire, but westwards towards Hawes", then why has Wensleydale Railway been thus far been unable to raise the funds to reopen the line to Northallerton (and more pressingly to update the crossing at Aiskew)?
    Why hasn't this "benefactor" come forward earlier if his true intention is to support Wensleydale Railway and the positive economic impact it can bring to the community along the length of Wensleydale?
    I have serious concerns that the shareholders are being presented with a "done deal" with no opportunity to consider alternative options.
     
  27. ThetrackMaster

    ThetrackMaster Member

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    Interesting point Wensleydale man.
    I would expand further. How do we know that this "buyer" isn't waiting in the wings to scoop up the WR for himself??
     
  28. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

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    Sounds like the shareholders/membership need to take control then! At the very least a tightly-drawn-up lease is needed to guarantee continued use for the benefit (only) of the railway.

    The L&B seem to have found a good way to live with the new owner (actually just a neighbour) at Woody Bay, a hotel/ B&B.
     
    Last edited: 14 Aug 2017
  29. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

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    Given the state of Mossdale Head tunnel its very hard to see how the railway could ever be extended past Hawes.
     
  30. ThetrackMaster

    ThetrackMaster Member

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    I think the word needs to get out to the heritage railway world- help is needed to support an alternative bid to purchase the site for future use by the WR.
    If the WR has given up their aspiration of reaching Aysgarth, well that's a sorry state of affairs.
    It would appear on the face of it the "management" has lost its way over this direction.
    I do hope the membership take a reflective and balanced view and consider what it would be like to "loose" that goal?
     

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