Re-opening Beeching era lines and stations
Fleetwood track is music to Lancastrian ears
The prospect of ‘making tracks to Fleetwood’ has been welcomed by Railfuture, Britain’s leading independent campaign for a bigger and better railway.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ announcement of a £500million fund for restoring rail connectivity to isolated communities comes not a moment too soon, as Britons hunger for an expanded rail network to rise to the twin challenges of improving our economy and our environment.
Railfuture’s Director for Infrastructure & Networks, Roger Blake, commented: “The railways invariably brought prosperity to communities. Half a century or more since some lost their trains we need urgently to restore them, to help expand people’s opportunities and improve their prospects in life. Journeys to earn, journeys to learn, journeys away to see family and friends – ever more people want to enjoy train travel as usable, sociable time. That means taking lines and stations into many more communities, that means we need not just this one-off but a rolling programme of annual injections of £half-a-billion to meet widespread community aspirations as well as rising passenger demand."
The necessary feasibility study for Fleetwood will assess the best way of serving the town by rail – conventional mainline or light rail – but that decision has already been taken for the Northumberland Line. Railfuture-affiliated campaign group SENRUG’s hard work over many years is literally paying off with the injection of a further £1.5million to move the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne route another step closer to restoration of mainline passenger services over tracks long-since used only for freight.
Another North West town crying out to have a rail link restored since its closure to passengers, even pre-Beeching, is Skelmersdale. Five years after it lost its passenger trains way back in 1956 it was designated a New Town! It now has c.40,000 population, at least double the size required to make a compelling case to ‘get back on track’.
Skipton-Colne and Matlock-Chinley are other northern links in urgent need of detailed scheme development to assist economic revival and sustainable transport for freight traffic as well as passengers.
Elsewhere Wisbech-March, Cowley-Oxford, Uckfield-Lewes, Hythe-Totton, and Strood/Gravesend-Hoo are needed to support sustainable housing growth.
Railfuture also welcomes the £20million announced for a third round of the New Stations Fund. Candidates include five in the West Midlands needed in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
Railfuture will be responding to the £300k ‘Ideas Fund’ for reinstating axed local services, using the local knowledge of our dozen regional branches and scores of affiliated user groups.
Railfuture warned however that the £500million must not be a sweetener for strangling HS2. That’s essential to increase rail capacity so that travel is shifted from air and road to rail and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. We do not want to be in the position of losing a big prize just after we’ve won a small one!
Notes to editors:
Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.
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Bruce Williamson, media spokesman
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