A long-held ambition to link a picturesque heritage railway with the main line network is set to take a big step forward.

Volunteers at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey railway are anticipating ‘good news’ when a study into the economic benefits of the plan are revealed later this month.

The plan, first mooted 30 years ago, is to connect the steam line with Skipton and re-establish the platform which has remained derelict since the branch line was closed in the 1960s. It would mean trains from Bradford and Leeds could run from the main Airedale line at Skipton straight onto Bolton Abbey.

Stephen Walker, business manager for the Embsay and Bolton Abbey railway, said: “From the feedback we’ve had it’s anticipated that the pay-back could be as short as ten years rather than the usual 60.

“It would stimulate more passengers for us and bring more people to the area, especially Skipton.

“Our new ticketing system has allowed us to see where our passengers come from and they cover a vast area from Scotland to London.

“The new link should stimulate even more visitors.

“The major cost isn’t the link. There’s only about 50 yards between our track and the other line – enough to establish the points. It’s the technical integration of the signals with signal control at York which is the major cost.”

The railway would share part of the line with the freight line which runs from Skipton to Threshfield quarry. The finances would come from the Yorkshire Dales Sustainable Development Fund, with the railway contributing ‘in-kind’ by taking on some of the labouring work, he said.

Network Rail, which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure, has completed a feasibility study and concluded that the missing track could easily be re-instated.

The project is backed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which welcomes the possibility that the line would enable more people, who do not have access to a car, to reach the Park.