A BOLD plan to create a new railway path to the Dales could give tourism in Addingham a massive boost.

Britain's second largest official millennium charity, Sustrans, wants to create the pathway for horses, cyclists and walkers along the route of the former railway line.

The path would stretch for three kilometres from Addingham Main Street to Bolton Abbey Railway Station, the terminus of the present Embsay Steam Railway.

But if railway officials get their way, the new path would be only a precursor to a much more ambitious project. They plan to reverse the notorious Beeching cuts of the 1960s by re-opening the rail line between Skipton and Addingham.

David Hall, of the Leeds office of Sustrans, revealed the pathway plan at a meeting of Addingham Parish Council.

He said that the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority had asked the charity to examine two routes for new former railway line-based pathways. One was from Skipton to Grassington and the other was from Bolton Abbey to Addingham.

Mr Hall produced a report about the Bolton Abbey-Addingham route and although it would cost around £300,000 and include major work, such as rebuilding a bridge, it was discovered to be feasible.

"It is clearly a major opportunity to create a classic railway path from Bolton Abbey to Addingham Main Street. I sent the report in to the Dales and they could see the attraction," said Mr Hall.

He said to mark the start of the path, Addingham could have a major piece of public art provided on Main Street.

Mr Hall said: "It is up to the people of Addingham and local residents to decide whether a footpath is something they would like to see."

He said he had spoken to the major landowners and received a positive reaction, particularly from the Bolton Abbey estate. He said he had also spoken to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway and agreed that the path, while protecting the route, would still leave enough room for the re-establishment of a single track railway.

Mr Hall said that the investment for the path would come from the Government which was keen to support initiatives designed to reduce car use.

He said: "The next stage would be to form an action group to look at the nitty-gritty with me and to have someone from horse riders and ramblers to bring it together."

He said that the whole pathway could be created within two years if everyone agreed that it was wanted. "The public money is there as the Government is into active travel, and these are very important and very sensitive nature corridors," said Mr Hall.

Parish Council chairman Gordon Campbell said that the members would support the project and get in touch with Mr Hall to tell him which councillors would sit on the action group.

After the meeting, Stephen Walker, Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway's business manager, said: "We were approached about the path one year ago and in principle we are quite happy with it. We need to talk to him a lot more about it.

"Anything that makes getting into the area better must be an improvement. Our aspiration is eventually to get into Addingham so we would be supportive of it as long as the single line railway is protected.

"We would get into Skipton first - that would put us back into the national network. Addingham could be next."

At present railway officials are in the process of setting up a working party with North Yorkshire County Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park authority to try to get agreement over the Skipton link.

Mr Stephens said: "The Sustrans path could be a catalyst to do things. It would work for the benefit of both organisations."

Former signalman and porter on the Skipton to Ilkley line, Bill Smith, said he would be delighted if the line to Addingham was reinstated. Mr Smith, of Grange Avenue, Ben Rhydding, retired in 1994 but he is a lifelong enthusiast and writer on the railways in the area.

Mr Smith said that the line could be extended to Skipton, and beyond, by the simple addition of a set of points at Embsay Junction.

"If it could be extended to the outskirts of Addingham, it would be an excellent thing," said Mr Smith.