Lancashire DalesRail is simply the best way to spend a Sunday! The service links Lancashire with the scenic Ribble Valley, Yorkshire Dales and Eden Valley. Starting from the coastal resort of Blackpool, DalesRail passes through Poulton-le-Fylde, Preston, Bamber Bridge, Blackburn, Whalley and Clitheroe before travelling along the famous Settle to Carlisle line and terminating in the historic border city of Carlisle.
The journey from Settle takes in the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, passes through Blea Moor tunnel and crosses the top of Dentdale and Garsdale before passing into the more pastoral Eden Valley and the lovely town of Appleby-in-Westmorland. You can enjoy all this, and more, from the comfort of a modern diesel train.
DalesRail is much more than a scenic train ride, it is an integrated package providing a full day out. You will find information about the many places that can be visited; the extensive guided walk programme led by experienced leaders from the Lancashire Rail Ramblers and the coach links that extend the rail journey to places the train cannot reach.
The number of timetabled DalesRail trains in 2022 was 18, but the number of trains that operated as planned was 10 with the others either cancelled, cancelled by engineering work or only part run; walkers on guided walks 250, independent walkers 205, day-trippers (non-walkers) 546. The total number of passengers came to around 1001.
The above statistics tell the story of the 2022 DalesRail season. Despite its unpredictability, the DalesRail train retained its potential to attract passengers because of its combination of strong branding, scenic ride, packaged day out, reasonable fares and the fact that it provides the opportunity for people to leave their cars behind and access the countryside by public transport. Just think how many more potential passengers would have been carried had the service been reliable. At least the advance notice of cancellations and follow-on publicity helped to significantly reduce the number of passengers turning up at stations to find their train wasn’t running.
As ever, Lancashire Rail Ramblers planned a comprehensive programme of walks including several town tours and historically themed strolls. Monthly connecting buses were planned but only two trips actually ran. Both were reasonably well supported and the fares charged were subsidised by Community Rail Lancashire.
DalesRail is a leisure service ‘par excellence’. Very few of the thousand passengers were using the service to journey elsewhere. Almost all were coming along for the scenic ride, to enjoy a day out in the Yorkshire Dales or Eden Valley, to meet up with friends, to make friends, to enjoy shopping in Carlisle or have a meal in a country pub. A significant few came from other parts of the UK or further afield just to enjoy our northern scenery from this unique train service. The atmosphere on DalesRail is also unique. On the outward journey there is a buzz of conversation, a sense of anticipation, of people walking up and down the train to talk to other regulars, of stewards checking how people are spending their day and offering advice and reassurance. On the return journey people chat in groups at stations about their day whilst awaiting the arrival of the return train and almost everybody, walkers and day-trippers, have had an enjoyable time.
Had the train run consistently we are sure that patronage would have been markedly higher especially as we had one of the best summers in years. Towards the end of the season the train ran on three consecutive Sundays, and passenger numbers rose as a result and a significant number of new faces were seen who hadn’t used the service before, and thoroughly enjoyed their experiences, which augurs well for 2023. Let us hope that the DalesRail service runs every Sunday next year so that we can attract increasing numbers in what will be challenging economic times.