AN ‘inspiring’ new vision - set out to give a closed railway line a long-term future - has been finally revealed following a successful public consultation.

Elsecar Heritage Railway operated on a station built to serve the Earls Fitzwilliams’ ironworks, but the mile-long stretch of track was mothballed in 2020 when a lease was handed back to Barnsley Council by a charity - the Elsecar Heritage Railway (EHR) Trust - which had run it as a visitor attraction since 2006.

Spiralling financial problems, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, were blamed for its sudden closure.

The line remains closed but new plans for its future have now been revealed - and work on the track is already underway.

However, given the wider site’s rich past and it now being designated as an ‘ancient monument’ by conservation body Historic England, more archaeological digs could be required before services resume.

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A spokesperson from the Elsecar Heritage Centre - the council-run venue where the line is situated - said: “Working alongside partners, including the Elsecar Heritage Railway trustees, essential work has been agreed to remove some of the disused track at the site.

“Due to be complete in early 2023, the work to remove the track will enable storage units to be taken off the site, and access for future developments planned for the space to occur.

“The railway station area and yard site are now a scheduled ancient monument - this means that we need a very close understanding of archaeology and ground conditions to plan for future structures that may be required for that new vision for the heritage railway.

“Over the coming weeks, sections of the modern track in the station area, laid since the 1990s, will be lifted so archaeological digs and ground investigations can take place.

“Thanks to the extensive and positive response to consultation earlier in the year, an inspiring new vision has been coming together for the future of a heritage railway in Elsecar.

“That vision to create a sustainable future for a heritage railway in the village will need significant investment, which is currently being explored.

“A great deal of work has been carried out to establish how a successful and sustainable heritage railway offer can be re-established at Elsecar, reflecting the pride in our railway heritage and what it can mean for our region’s visitor economy.”

The council own the trackbed, having bought it in 1994, a decade after the closure of the last mine that the branch of the Mexborough to Barnsley freight route served.

Although the lease was handed back, the charity retained rolling stock - giving fresh hope that a long-term deal can be struck in order to reopen it in the future.

A spokesperson from Barnsley Council added: “The railway station area and yard site are now a scheduled ancient monument.

“This means that we need a very close understanding of archaeology and ground conditions to plan for future structures that may be required for that new vision for the heritage railway.

“Over the coming weeks, sections of the modern track in the station area, laid since the 1990s, will be lifted so archaeological digs and ground investigations can take place.

“This will also allow small temporary structures and cabins, which belong to third parties, to be removed from the site.

“We are also doing seasonal maintenance work to the rest of the track route.

“A great deal of work has been carried out to establish how a successful and sustainable heritage railway offer can be re-established at Elsecar, reflecting the pride in our railway heritage and what it can mean for our region’s visitor economy.

“We look forward to sharing more about that work and the resulting vision soon.”

Stephanie Peacock, Barnsley East MP, backed the line’s reopening and praised volunteers’ work.

She told the Chronicle: “I know the heritage railway is popular locally, and I would really like it to stay open - there has been a lot of hard work to establish the next steps for a sustainable heritage railway in Elsecar.

“This will require investment and funding. Barnsley Council are currently looking into how to secure this.

“I remain supportive of preserving Elsecar Heritage Centre’s past whilst working to secure its future.”