It is full steam ahead for a new luxury tourist train set to grace the Carlisle to Settle line ahead of this summer’s predicted visitor boom.
Plans have been unveiled for a fully-first class, five carriage-long train with an on-board chef to take people on day trips along the iconic route over the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales.
The redesigned InterCity 125 model, dubbed the Staycation Express, will commence running two return services a day, six days a week from July 17 until September 9 and will stop at Carlisle, Appleby, Skipton and Settle.
Adrian Quine, who founded and runs the project, said: “We feel we can create an attraction to draw people into the area and give them something to do.
“The line is renowned not only in the UK but across the world.
“We want to be fully integrated into the wider Cumbrian tourism offering and increase investment across the region.
“The line is an asset to Cumbria that has never been fully utilised but this is the missing piece of the puzzle.
“This sort of thing has never been done before so it’s definitely fresh and interesting for visitors and locals alike.”
The Staycation Express is Britain’s first timetabled tourist train running on public tracks.
The idea was trialled last year but this season’s redesign will revolutionise the service, Adrian said, which will now cater for bikes, backpacks and wheelchairs to make the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales more accessible than ever.
“I never tire of the journey,” added Adrian.
“The line is breathtakingly beautiful, from the Eden Valley and its rolling hills up on to the tops of the Pennines with its wild, open views. The whole trip is just staggering.
“The landscape changes with the weather too. Even just one cloud can drastically change the views.”
Owned by Rail Charter Services Limited, the booking site went live last Monday and racked up more than 500 sales in the first week and Adrian said that the train usually had a short booking window with people buying tickets closer to the time.
The target clientele for the train is locals and tourists staying in the Lake District and the Eden Valley who could take a day trip to Yorkshire and return in time for the evening.
The dining provision is a key part of the business according to Adrian, who has brought in Allan Collinson of the Fetherston Arms Hotel in Kirkoswald as the catering manager.
Meals will include local produce such as beef from Low Howgill Farm and desserts by Cartmel Village Shop.
Travellers could potentially set off from Appleby in the morning with a full cooked English breakfast and return to a three-course roast, all while speeding through the English countryside.
The interior has been redesigned for comfort and social-distancing with every leather padded seat positioned by a table and a window, and with Perspex barriers behind to create pods of two or four.
Externally it is all change too. A British racing green and silver colour scheme will carry a newly-designed insignia that incorporates a red squirrel, red grouse and Ribblehead viaduct; alongside the flags of Yorkshire and Cumbria.
Adrian is a railway specialist, having worked for the BBC for a number of years and as a transport consultant and now sits on the board for the Settle to Carlisle Railway Trust.
This year, he is focusing on building the brand and futureproofing the business.
He said the venture did not make money last year and aims to break even this year, laying the groundwork for future growth into the “untapped market”.