BENTHAM man Gerald Townson has been appointed chairman of the Leeds-Lancaster-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (CRP).

He has developed a keen interest in local railways after retiring to his home town after 30 years of teaching in a large community college in West Sussex.

He is already general secretary for the Lancaster and Skipton Rail User Group and a founding member and chairman of the Friends of Bentham Station, who have transformed the station into a welcoming gateway to the local community.

He has received national recognition for his voluntary endeavours.

Now he will chair the partnership which supports the Bentham Line, which links Leeds to Morecambe via the Aire, Ribble and Lune Valleys.

He believes more can be done to raise the number of passengers through improvements to the timetable, the promotion of the line both as a scenic route and trans-Pennine link and by encouraging use of the line for leisure activities.

Gerald has also led the CRP’s discussions with the bidders for the new East Coast Main Line Franchise, which will be awarded next year. He said: “I am delighted that for the first time the CRPs which link to the main line will receive support from the successful bidder and will work with them to promote journeys beyond the East Coast and onto the community rail lines, such as ours.”