A PROJECT to reconnect two quarries with the main Settle to Carlisle railway at Horton in Ribblesdale will reach a major milestone this weekend when the new line is connected to the existing network.

Funded by Tarmac, owners of Arcow and Dry Rigg quarries, the £5 million project will help remove more than 16,000 lorry journeys from the local road network each year and follows close liaison with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Craven District Council, parish councils and residents to look at alternative ways of transporting materials.

Delivered by Network Rail and its partners Babcock and Story Contracting, the work, which started this summer, includes:

• Significant earth removal as well as the construction of a new supporting railway embankment;

• Opening up the connection between both quarries and the main railway line;

• Track and signalling work to connect the new section of railway to the main railway line including supporting signalling work at Blea Moor, Settle Junction and Arcow;

Connecting the link to the main railway line will take place from close of play tonight until the early hours of Tuesday.

During this time, the railway will be closed between Settle and Appleby, with Leeds to Carlisle services starting and finishing at Long Preston with a connecting bus service to/from Carlisle.

However, on Sunday, due to additional works, trains will start and finish at Shipley.

Ross Halley, Tarmac's regional estates manager North and Scotland, said: "The opening will remove thousands of vehicle movements from the local highway network, increase connectivity to Tarmac's sites and help secure the line for future generations.

"This project would not have been possible without commitment from Network Rail and our local stakeholders, including the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and we are delighted that this project is nearing completion".

Joelle Calderelli, Network Rail’s scheme project manager, said: "On completion, this new link will have a major, positive impact upon the local road network, helping remove thousands of lorry journeys from the Yorkshire Dales National Park. As part of our Railway Upgrade Plan we are committed to working with all parties to develop the railway to support industry and the wider economy.”

Once this work has been completed, a new footbridge will be installed to cross the new rail connection, aligned to the existing pedestrian route adjacent to the quarry.

The new rail link is scheduled to open to traffic in late this year or early 2016.

The rail connection was originally removed from use in the 1960s.