Following further support from local MP Rory Stewart, the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society have received written confirmation from the Secretary of State for Defra that state-aid rules will not apply to the STR project, ensuring the group can again raise funds from public sector grant-awarding organisations. Rory Stewart MP and patron of the STRPS group, Lord Inglewood, had previously met with the Secretary of State, to press for Defra to revise its stance on the matter. The written confirmation STRPS have now received will enable them to overcome bureaucratic hurdles that have been stalling progress for a number of months.

The STRPS group has already successfully raised over £5 million to fund a self-supporting community railway that will eventually serve Haltwhistle, South Tynedale, Alston Moor and the wider North Pennines region. According to the group’s latest financial and feasibility report, the creation of a seasonal heritage steam railway will attract over 100,000 visitors to the area, generating between £2.2M and £4.1M of benefits to the local economy every year. It would also serve as an important form of public transport for one of the most isolated and rural areas in Britain. Following the closure of the old railway line to Alston in 1976, Alston now lacks any rail connections, and the recent removal of bus subsidies by Cumbria County Council has exacerbated local public transport problems further.

Rory Stewart said:

“Alston Moor has an incredible history, a stunning landscape and a vibrant local community. It holds huge potential for the development of its tourism industry, and the South Tynedale Railway project is central to this. I am pleased we have now secured the support of the Secretary of State in writing for the future of the project, and I hope it will allow South Tynedale Railway’s fantastic volunteers to turn their time and energy back towards making this incredible project a reality.”

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