Ripon City Council votes to drop £20,000 feasibility study to bring back the city's railway

The current 20,000 feasibility study has been halted.
The current 20,000 feasibility study has been halted.

A £20,000 feasibility study into reinstating Ripon’s railway line has been abandoned 50 years on from the station’s closure.

The project had been put out to tender by Ripon City Council, but Coun Stuart Martin told the ‘Gazette that councillors voted at a full council meeting to halt the plans after it was suggested that “due diligence” had not been followed for the process.

Coun Martin said: “I am concerned that the city council got to a position where they didn’t have the relevant and necessary paperwork, and that is why I voted against it.”

He added that councillors had originally agreed to go ahead with the feasibility study on the condition that funds also came from other sources instead of relying on Ripon City Council’s, but he said no other funds had come available.

The council’s transport working group will now prepare a strategic outline business case to determine again whether a feasibility study should go ahead, 10 months since it was originally agreed.

Ripon City Council clerk Paula Benson said: “Following a full review of the responses received, council resolved not to appoint a successful bidder at the meeting of full council held on 6th November 2017.

“The council is now reviewing its position and will decide in the near future how best to progress its aspirations for having Ripon connected to the rail network.”

Concerned residents and Littlethorpe Parish Council residents objecting to the reinstatement have called on the city council to be more transparent in their decision-making, after the debate over halting the study went into private session.

Liz Tite said: “The good people of Ripon should be concerned how affairs affecting them are being run by their elected councillors.

“It is generally known that there is no support from North Yorkshire County Council or Harrogate Borough Council, or funds to see the railway project through.”

Ripon City Development Manager Alan Weston said the responses to the tender brief were reviewed and that the council’s decision was taken before any of the money was spent. He said the decision not to move forward with the study was taken in public, and that the debate was in private due to it containing commercially sensitive information.

Littlethorpe Parish Council has described the idea of bringing back Ripon’s railway as a “dead duck” and its former chairman John Edmonstone said it is a “waste of time and money”, and a “vanity project”.

Coun Adrian Morgan has been campaigning for the reinstatement of the railway for more than 30 years - he said its loss was Ripon’s “biggest disaster in living memory.”

Responding to Monday’s decision, Coun Morgan said: “It was gratifying to find that we had five responses from six invitations despite being a small contract funded by Ripon City Council, North Yorkshire County Council, and the Reinstatement Group.

“Halting the process as was agreed by the majority of councillors at Monday night’s meeting has already consigned Ripon to become economically disadvantaged compared to other rail connected market towns in North Yorkshire.”