Strategic Outline Business Case
This Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC), prepared by Stantec, sets out the strategic rationale for improving transport connectivity between North Yorkshire and Lancashire, through consideration of improved connections between the Craven District Council (CDC) area in North Yorkshire and Ribble Valley Borough Council (RVBC) area in Lancashire. The business case explores the strategic case for transport improvements and through a multi-modal option generation and appraisal process, ultimately recommends a rail-based solution.
The SOBC has been funded through the Government’s Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund as well as part funded by a grant from the Community Rail Development Fund awarded to Community Rail Lancashire by the Community Rail Network and the Department for Transport (DfT). The Restoring Your Railway Fund is a £500million fund administered by the DfT to support the restoration of rail passenger services and re-opening of stations. The fund is split three ways to offer support to projects at different phases of proposal development. The Ideas Fund provides support to reinstate local services, such as those being considered here.
The SOBC has been informed by analysis of a range of transport and socio-economic data as well as a wide-ranging stakeholder and public engagement exercise which has enabled existing connectivity issues to be better understood and views on potential options to be taken into consideration.
Improved public transport connectivity between the two areas has the potential to address existing transport problems relating to: a lack of sustainable travel mode choice; public transport travel options which are uncompetitive with the private car; and the high cost of travel by public transport – all resulting in high reliance on the private car for travel between Lancashire and North Yorkshire.
In turn, improved public transport connectivity has the potential to increase access to employment and education opportunities (particularly for those without access to a car or who would prefer not to use a car), improve labour market efficiency, increase tourist numbers and associated local employment opportunities, and importantly, support the in-migration and retention of young people in these rural areas, ultimately supporting the long-term sustainability of these communities. As well as aligning with local and regional policy, improved connections have the potential to generate material improvement for smaller rural communities, underpinning the UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
Given the existing transport problems, in order to steer the development of potential transport options and aid in their appraisal, five project objectives were developed:
* For journeys between and passing through Craven district and the Ribble Valley: o Reduce public transport journey times
+ Reduce the cost of travel by public transport
+ Increase modal choice for those without access to a car, or those who prefer not to drive
+ Minimise interchange between services
* Widen access to the Yorkshire Dales and the Ribble Valley area for those without access to a car or for those who would prefer not to drive
A range of multi-modal options were developed, through consideration of stakeholder and public feedback and ideas, to improve public transport connectivity covering bus, tram-train and rail modes. New connections by rail are considered the most advantageous as they generally perform well against the study objectives and can be seen to provide greater benefit when compared to the bus options (shorter journey times and reduce interchange requirements).
Several main rail-based options, and various sub-option permutations of these, were taken forward. These options were developed to consider the potential service origin (Manchester or Preston); destination (Hellifield, or extended beyond, either into the Dales (e.g., Settle, Ribblehead, Garsdale) on the Settle-Carlisle Line, or to Skipton); and service frequency. The origin, destination and frequency sub-option permutations were informed by the outcomes from the stakeholder and public engagement exercise.
The capital, operational and opportunity cost of each rail option was considered alongside the anticipated transport outcomes and societal impacts of each option at the origin-destination pair level. All of the options deliver benefits and require limited or no capital expenditure with low-risk operating costs.
Patronage estimates for the options show potential for up to approximately 80,000 additional annual passengers, if a service was to operate from Manchester Victoria and extend beyond Hellifield on the Settle-Carlisle Line.
Revenue and benefit-to-cost ratio estimates for the options show, based on the high-level assumptions made here, that the operating costs are in excess of the revenue with annual revenue estimated at just under half of the annual operating costs (with an annual subsidy of around £1million required). This is not dissimilar to other rural rail services where the key benefits derived relate to a range of economic and social impacts not modelled or monetised as part of this assessment. More detailed modelling at Outline Business Case stage will help better define the revenue and benefits. Discussions with Transport for the North regarding their Northern Rail Modelling System (NORMS) has made it clear that using the NORMS model for the next, more detailed stage of work would be appropriate, as it provides better choice modelling for new connectivity and / or large changes in journey time such as those which would be experienced here.
It is clear that a passenger service between Clitheroe and Hellifield (as an extension of existing Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe services) could be reinstated in the short-term with little or no need for additional infrastructure and could potentially be delivered as part of the May 2023 timetable change. In the short-term, such an option is likely to be a service operating from Manchester Victoria and extending beyond Hellifield on the Settle-Carlisle Line, given the comparatively minor technical requirements and outlay required to facilitate this.
Five rail options considered as part of this business case are recommended for further detailed exploration at Outline Business Case stage. These options are:
+ Option 1a: Extend all current Clitheroe terminating services to Hellifield
+ Option 1b: Extend alternative current Clitheroe terminating services – all stations to Garsdale
+ Option 2a: Two trains per hour to Clitheroe. One train every two hours extends to Garsdale
+ Option 2b: Two trains per hour to Clitheroe. One train every two hours extends to Ribblehead
+ Option 2c: Two trains per hour to Clitheroe. One train per hour extends to Settle Junction
In addition, opportunities with respect to an expansion of the DalesRail service (passenger rail services currently operated for tourism in the summer months between Blackpool North and Carlisle along the Ribble Valley and Settle- Carlisle railway lines). Such an expansion may include increasing DalesRail services to include Saturdays, Bank Holidays and selected Friday train services, potentially for a longer season, and operating through to Carlisle. Such expansions are recommended to be taken forward and further explored at Outline Business Case stage or as part of an independent project to supplement the emerging conclusions of this business case.
This SOBC will be submitted to the DfT Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund for consideration. If successful, the business case will then progress to the more detailed Outline Business Case stage which would involve planning the proposals in greater detail, including a more detailed examination of their value for money, exploring the affordability and funding requirements and development of a preferred option delivery strategy.
Richard Watts, Chair CRL, commented: “It has been a privilege to be part of the steering group that has overseen the development of this project. The submission of the SOBC to the DfT marks the completion of a lot of work and we all feel we have a strong case to see more regular services beyond Clitheroe to Hellifield and possibly onwards to Garsdale. The study has also looked at the role of DalesRail which has been so important in providing a regular leisure-based service from Lancashire onto the Settle Carlisle line. We now wait to see if the project will move onto the OBC (Outline Business Case) stage. In the meantime, the new DalesRail season starts on Sunday 16th May.”