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Railways and roads

Railways and roads

What a strange co-incidence it’s been this week, with Michael Portillo popping up to present BBC2’s Great British Railway Journeys, the first of eight episodes of the ITV drama Jericho shown last night and the announcement today that one of the world’s most famous steam locomotives, The Flying Scotsman, is ready to meet its public after ten years of restoration work. There’s a link between all three. In an earlier life Michael Portillo was the Transport Minister who in 1989 saved the Settle to Carlisle line from closure, the greatest achievement, he always says, of his political career. His announcement came after eight years of campaigning by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line, Ribblehead Viaduct one its great landmarks, steam specials one of the great attractions (both pictured). It was the construction of the 72 mile route in the 1870s which was the inspiration for Jericho, in particular the life and hardship of the thousands of navvies who helped to build the line. As for The Flying Scotsman, the public can see the engine this and next weekend on the East Lancashire Railway and then on Saturday, January 23, as it travels along the Settle-Carlisle line (details on www.railwaytouring.net), with a stop in Carlisle. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of enthusiasts and photographers will be out to welcome the locomotive, but in all the fanfare of publicity spare a thought for the subjects of Jericho, those who lived and died in the construction of a railway line across some of the wildest and most beautiful landscapes in England.

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