WORK has started on rebuilding a second platform at Bolton Abbey Station.

And it is hoped the project will help to pave the way for a more ambitious £2 million scheme to reconnect the heritage railway to the mainline at Skipton.

"It is a significant part of our development plan," said Stephen Walker, business manager of the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. "The new platform will give us increased capacity and greater flexibility and that is essential for our long-term plan."

The railway – run by the Yorkshire Dales Railway Trust – first revealed its plan establish a link to Skipton in May 2009 and, since then, it has been working hard to make it a reality.

And the platform scheme is key to its dream.

The project has already won the support of politicians and the trust has meeting with key stakeholders in October.

"We need to keep the momentum going," said Mr Walker. "We may still be two or three years away from achieving our goal, but we are moving forward. We have had a lot of support in Parliament."

The link was severed 50 years ago under Dr Beeching's cuts, and restoring the missing 20 yards of track would allow the tourist line to be used by rail passengers from Leeds and Bradford.

A feasibility study has estimated opening up the railway could add £8.9 million of visitor spend to the local economy within a decade.

Creating a second platform at Bolton Abbey is seen as a major milestone in the railway's ambitions as it allows more trains to run, which will be vital if the link to Skipton is restored.

The work has been funded by a £50,000 grant from Yorventure, as well as local fundraising, and is being carried out by volunteers, under guidance from professional builders. It is hoped it will be finished by the end of the month.

However, further work will be needed to construct a footbridge connecting the two platforms.

In its heyday, Bolton Abbey Station was used by royalty, including a number of reigning monarchs, who were visiting the Duke of Devonshire's Bolton Hall or enjoying the grouse shooting on the estate moorland.

During the Second World War, an air raid shelter was constructed in the embankment adjacent to the station, which was earmarked for the use of the Royal party should the need arise.