The 73-mile long Settle to Carlisle railway line opened in 1875. But since February last year, it has been a few miles short following a serious landslip between Armathwaite and Appleby.

Trains have run between Leeds and Appleby and a bus service has operated between Appleby and Carlisle but traveller numbers have been severely hit – and visitor numbers to Carlisle, Armathwaite and Appleby have also dived.

The damaged stretch has been repaired at a cost of £23 million and re-opens today with much huffing and puffing and fanfare thanks to a visit from the iconic Flying Scotsman .

It is hoped that the famous old train will fire up interest in the line once more.

The Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company says the closure has caused a drop of up to 60 per cent in passenger numbers.

Less than 400,000 have travelled the line over the past year, that reckons up to a loss of £1.5 million for Northern Rail.

And as much as £200,000 has been lost in trolley takings for the development company, according to general manager Drew Haley.

Drew Haley Mr Haley says the closure will also have hit the economies of the towns the line serves, such as Leeds, Settle and Carlisle.

He said: “It has been a tough year.

“This railway puts 250,000 to 300,000 people a year into Carlisle. The economic impact of halving that amount of passengers will be felt.”

The company has developed plans for making up for their lost time and customers – including decorating the livery of the train with a map of the area and producing new timetables that list things to do and places to see along its route.

Appleby is looking forward to seeing a return of travellers along the line.

Martin Stephenson, Cumbria county councillor for the town, said: “Losing the rail line was one of the setbacks that the town had when Storm Desmond struck.

“Having it repaired and returned to full operation is another part of the jigsaw in getting the town back to normal.

“It means more visitors, but it also improves the connectivity of the town, especially after losing the 563 bus route.

“The bus service that was introduced during the line repair was not as easy to use as the through train.

Martin Stephenson “Regular visitors to the town have been affected significantly but hopefully now things will return to normal.

“Re-opening the line will have a significant impact economically and those people without a car will be able to visit Carlisle more easily to see friends or go to the hospital or just go shopping.”

Town resident Ron Smith is a Blue Badge tourist guide who leads groups from across the world on historical tours of Cumbria and beyond.

He said: “When they put ‘specials’ on, Appleby is choc-a-bloc with enthusiasts each day, particularly in the summer.

“And more generally, you see a steady trickle of people coming down from the railway.

“The town needs it and the numbers who use it go up year after year.

“It is not just a tourist line, it is also essential for people going to Carlisle and to Leeds for college and for work and for re-routed west coast rail services.”

There will be a special celebration laid on at Armathwaite station for the re-opening of the line and for the arrival of The Flying Scotsman which is steaming along the track to mark the occasion.

The village station will host stalls, a jazz band, a vintage car and free food and soft drinks provided by the Friends of the line.

The repairs have already signalled an improvement in fortunes for Armathwaite.

Bob Fleming has run the village stores for the past six years.

He says: “There have still been tourists to the village, but not as many as usual.

“Everyone seems quite excited about the line coming back.

“I think it will make a difference to the village this year.”

Dawn Mackenzie Dawn MacKenzie only took over at the Duke’s Head Inn in the village last February – after the line was closed.

She said: “We’re going to be busy today. We have a lot more people booked in than usual, numbers have doubled.”

As well as being a special day for the folk of Armathwaite and Appleby, Fred Bell will also be raising a glass to the full reopening of the famous old line.

He can almost taste the benefits of having the line fully re-opened.

He has just opened a new bar on platform four of Carlisle’s Station.

Named 301 Miles From London – based on Carlisle folklore which claims that is the distance from the capital.

And he is hoping to welcome customers off the Settle line in the months and years ahead.

He said: “The opening of the bar and the re-opening of the line have worked out nicely.

“We have already built up a great relationship with Railway Development company and the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line.

“This was a clear opportunity for Carlisle station and one I thought would work well with the local community and travellers.”

Viv Dodd Viv Dodd, secretary of Carlisle City Centre Business Group, said the line is important for the city: “It definitely brings a lot of visitors to Carlisle.

“No end of people in the city have said to me that they have lost trade over the past year. It has been a long time and times have been tough.

“The good thing about people arriving on that line is that they are interested in what Carlisle has got to offer.

“It is a historic line and people come from all over the country to enjoy it and a lot come to Carlisle for the first time.”

For Mr Haley, the re-opening is the light at the end of a long tunnel and he’s delighted it has finally arrived: “There is a lot of interest and the Flying Scotsman has helped, but it is part of the national rail network and not just a tourist route.

“Getting it open for Easter should give us a good boost.

“I’m as excited as a Yorkshireman can get.”