The Wensleydale Railway Plc

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Wensleydale Railway Plc's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Wensleydale Railway Plc is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Based in Leeming Bar, North
Wensleydale Railway is
managed and run by a
team of seven permanent
staff and 200 registered
Most people think of a heritage railway as a museum, or
simply a track where steam trains run. The reality is,
however, that a heritage railway is far more complex
and sophisticated than that; to keep these old locomotives
running, a diverse team with a wide range of skills is entirely
necessary. This is especially true of the Wensleydale Railway,
where General Manager Richard Brown heads up a team of
200 registered volunteers. He tells
The Parliamentary Review
about how this is essential for its continued operation.
Our team of 200 registered volunteers supports a permanent staff team of just
seven. The management and integration of volunteers is key to ensure the railway’s
continued operation.
A large proportion of our volunteers are retired and seek new opportunities beyond
the world of work; one of our key challenges comes in retaining those volunteers
in addition to attracting new staff. This is becoming more difficult than ever thanks
to the social changes the country has experienced over the past ten years, including
later retirement ages and the increasing trend of grandparents providing day care
for children.
Our experienced volunteers bring a huge range of skills to the table that they have
accumulated through their working life; one of our aims is to pass these skills on to
future generations.
»General Manager: Richard
»Established in 2003
»Based in Leeming Bar, North
»Services: Transportation –
heritage railway
»No. of employees: 7 full-
time equivalent, with 200
»Third-longest heritage railway
in the UK by route miles
The Wensleydale
Railway Plc
Highlighting best practice
Scruton station – the home of
the Wensleydale Railway
One of our recent successes has been
the restoration of Scruton station –
which was little more than a shell
when works began. A part of that
process involved liaising with a local
college, where experienced volunteers
worked with college students to design
and rebuild the large wooden fascia of
the building.
Scruton station is now a base for our
heritage education programme. Pupils
visit the station and through role play
and handling of exhibits are immersed
in how the station was a key part of
village life. Children get dressed up
in period costume, too, which really
brings the experience to life for them.
The programme is aimed at Key
Stage 1 and 2 children and has been
recognised at national level for the rich
experience it is.
Other work with the
We also work with local schools to
provide a small number of placements
for teenagers with autism. A number
of 15 to 16-year-old students swap
two days a week at school for two
days working on the railway. The
teenagers carry out tasks at the railway
to develop their independence and
build confidence. They are mentored
by volunteers or employees, and
their experiences are tailored to their
personal interests – often something
to do with mechanics, administration
We are also responsible for the
management of a 22-mile strip of
land, which is home to all manner
of different species and habitats.
Balancing the needs of the railway
against the needs of wildlife can be
difficult; in particular, trees are not the
best of neighbours, as they can cause
damage to the track formation and
present a danger to passengers, who,
because it is a heritage railway, tend to
have their heads out of windows.
It is important for us that we reduce
the impact we have on these habitats
in question wherever we can, and
we seek the advice of several wildlife
groups to that end. For example, while
we do remove trees, we also leave
wood in habitat piles which are then
untouched. Additionally, in several
places, certain parcels of land are
deliberately left untouched so they can
be effectively managed by nature.
Along the quaint North
Yorkshire countryside
integration of
volunteers is
key to ensure
the railway’s
The railway operates in a rural
part of North Yorkshire where the
predominant industries are agriculture
and tourism. The original focus
for our founders was to operate a
community transport system. For a
number of reasons – and not least
because of the lack of people within
the railway’s catchment area – this did
not work. Subsequently, the railway
has evolved, and while its aim has
changed, our ethos has not. We still
very much operate a railway for our
community – our methods have just
We now bring in custom for small
rural businesses and also source as
much as we can from local suppliers to
ensure that we put money back into
the local economy. Our strategic goal
has always been to increase passenger
numbers, consequently benefitting
the local economy and enabling
projects such as the Heritage Education
Programme to be further developed.
Infrastructure – an ever-
present concern
Our single biggest threat is the
railway’s infrastructure. We lease our
tracks from Network Rail, and when
they were first leased, they were in
a very poor condition. We maintain
the line at our own expense, with
If we only had to maintain it for
our own use, this would suit us just
fine. As part of the lease agreement,
however, we are required to keep the
branch open for military traffic to and
from Catterick, the largest garrison in
Europe. The income we receive from
operating these sporadic trains is not
sufficient to pay for the wear they
place on the track.
I would like to see an obligation placed
on Network Rail, as a company funded
by the taxpayer, to assist heritage
railways like ourselves with material
swaps. This is not about free handouts,
but, rather, sensible agreements.
Network Rail generates huge amounts
of reusable material that is not
required for the operation of the
At present, Network Rail would say
that this is not possible thanks to
its other obligations. I would argue,
however, that the net benefit to the
country is greater than the small loss
potentially placed on it; this is certainly
the case when we put into perspective
the losses it suffers from now and its
inefficiencies in materials handling.
The second area that would be of
huge benefit is a re-evaluation of gift
aid criteria. We are a not-for-profit
organisation, but the company that
operates the railway is established as
a plc. We have looked at altering the
structure, but Network Rail prefers
that it stays the same as it is for
Therefore, we are unable to claim gift
aid on tickets – yet most other visitor
attractions can claim on the admission
fee. Any positive change here would
benefit not just our railway, but the
sector as a whole.
We still very
much operate a
railway for our
community –
our methods
have just
Scruton station

This article was sponsored by The Wensleydale Railway Plc. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster