THIRTY years ago today, jubilation resounded around the Dales following a historic announcement in the House of Commons.

That announcement had lifted the threat of closure of one of England's best loved scenic railways.

The Settle-Carlisle line had been faced with British Rail's determination to shut the line, sparking an overwhelming rearguard action by a band of people, rail enthusiasts and environmentalists who locked horns with rail bosses.

But history was to be made when - on April 11, 1989 - Margaret Thatcher’s former Transport Minister Michael Portillo, who went on to host the BBC2 series Great British Railway Journeys, signed the order, vindicating the six-year campaign by ramblers, railway lovers and supporters to save the line.

He has stated that he considers "saving the Settle to Carlisle railway" to be his greatest achievement.

It could have been a different story had railway observers not recognised all the classic tactics long before the official announcement of the intention to close the line was made.

A combination of strange pricing policies, cancelled trains, the neglect of maintenance over a period of years and warnings about how few passengers were using the line were well-known "closure by stealth" measures adopted by British Rail in the run-up to any official statement.

Claims that repairs on Ribblehead Viaduct would cost £6 million and that the 93,000 passenger journeys generated less than £500,000 in revenue were seen as imminent warnings that the line would be lost.

As it turned out, British Rail was in for a rude awakening after the official closure notice was announced in December, 1983 that the rail company was going to withdraw its services.

The line, famous for its scenery, had many friends, as was recognised at a meeting in Settle Town Hall in 1981 when the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line was founded in readiness to campaign for the future of the route. The group was quickly supported by local users and groups.

A Joint Action Committee was established shortly after this, bringing together the Friends, the Railway Development Society (a national rail pressure group) and Transport 2000.

The fight was on.

In an ironic and beneficial twist, the publicity drove people to travel on what they thought was their last opportunity on the line. Numbers consequently grew and sabotaged British Rail's argument that the line was a drain.

Thirty two thousand people - and one dog, Ruswarp, the border collie of Friends group co-founder Graham Nuttal - objected to the plans.

A host of Ministers and celebrities were invited on special trains to experience the spectacular journey for themselves and to promote the fact that the line was worth saving. Its classic example of fine Victorian engineering was one reason alone.

The DalesRail service was launched by the Yorkshire Dales National Park to give people a glimmer of hope and a service to use.

Hearings into closure objections by the TUCC opened in Appleby on March 24 1986. Its report - which found that closure of the line would cause extreme hardship to frequent users and those who lived in remote Pennine areas - gave hope to the protesters that the line could yet have a reprieve.

In May 1987, English Heritage offered £1 million, its largest ever grant, towards the repair of Ribblehead Viaduct and, against all the odds, local councils managed to raise £500,000 to give the line a chance of being saved.

The following year, an English Heritage report showed that British Rail's estimates for the repair of Ribblehead Viaduct were vastly overstated. Passenger journeys had now increased to 450,000 and the revenue to £1.7 million.

Renewed energy was put into keeping momentum going. Closed stations were reopened and lovingly cared for by an army of volunteers.

Today it is estimated around 1.2 million passengers travel the line each year.

The line is open seven days a week and freight, which had dried up completely before the closure announcement was made, makes regular runs.

According to one cynical observation in 2010, the line was saved to transport trainloads of foreign coal to Yorkshire power stations following the closure of British pits.

Whatever the reason for the Thatcher Government’s decision to thwart British Rail’s closure plan, campaigners’ claims that the line had a worthy future have been proven correct.