Rail restore talks on track

By IH Monday 01 October 2012 Updated: 08/10 08:57

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Buy photos » The old rail line on the Greenway which is now a cycle and footpath. (s)

RESTORING the rail line between Stratford and Honeybourne is a real possibility - but an expensive one.

A Rail Study - funded by a wide range of local authorities, rail companies and voluntary rail bodies, together with developers St Modwen Properties - concluded there was a prospect of the rail link between Stratford station

and Honeybourne Junction on the Cotswold Line being reinstated at some point in the future.

The link would form a through route to form part of the national rail network, which would provide the opportunity for direct passenger services to Oxford and Worcester - and possibly on to London Paddington. The scope for freight use to use the route was judged to be limited.

But the proposed technical and engineering solution identified in the study would be extremely expensive - estimated at up to £97 million - including bridges under Evesham Place and Wetherby Way as Network Rail would not support the provision of level crossings.

And while an initial assessment of environmental issues has been carried out in the study, a more rigorous appraisal would be required should the project be pursued, to identify the level of impact on features such as flood risk, ecology and property.

Stratford District Council’s Cabinet will consider the study on Monday (October 8).

District council leader Coun Chris Saint, said: “At this stage, due to the significant issues that the study has identified it is too early to say whether or not the rail link will be constructed.

"It is evident that a further assessment will need to be undertaken to refine the work carried out by the current Study in order to substantiate whether the project is a viable and realistic proposition. Potential operators would need to consider their commitment to investment in the rail network that will be influenced by future patterns of development and activities within and outside the district.

The council is meeting its legal obligations to publish this study. I acknowledge that there is strong opposition to re-opening the line and strong support for its re-instatement. The debate will continue for some time.”

But the Liberal Democrats questioned the cost of the project.

Coun Jenny Fradgley said: "With capital costs of nearly £100 million and a subsidy of over £5 per journey for extra passenger traffic of 250,000 journeys a year, this doesn’t seem to make sense to me. In the current economic climate I would have thought it unlikely that this will happen, so I’ll be pressing the council to assume that the line will not be re-opening in the foreseeable future.

"I believe that instead of supporting the re-opening of the line the council should just safeguard the route, as at present."

The effect on the Greenway of reinstating the railway would also be an important consideration, and campaign group NoAvon Line has been quick to stress the environmental.

Spokesman Tom Baxter said: "It would have a very big impact environmentally, but the tone of the report shows they are going to push very very hard for it to happen."

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