Report backs rail link plan

IS IT ON TRACK? A map showing the section of the railway line that could be reinstated.

IS IT ON TRACK? A map showing the section of the railway line that could be reinstated.

First published in News

A STUDY of proposals to reinstate a rail link between Worcester and Stratford-upon- Avon has found there is a good case for the idea.

Consultants Arup carried out a £70,000 study into the prospects for the reopening of a rail connection from the Cotswold Line, which links Worcester and Oxford to the Warwickshire tourist hotspot.

Their report says that reinstatement of the railway from Stratford to nearby Long Marston is feasible, along with improvements to the existing freight branch line from Long Marston to Honeybourne, on the Cotswold Line. The report says that forecasts of potential passenger numbers on trains between Stratford and Worcester and Stratford and Oxford could see services turning an operating profit soon after they start running, should the route be restored.

Trains could also be extended beyond Stratford to Leamington Spa.

The consultants recommend hourly trains on each route, which, combined with an hourly service on the Cotswold Line, would mean trains at least half-hourly throughout the day at stations in the Vale of Evesham.

A report to the cabinet of Stratford District Council, which co-ordinated the study, said it was now up to the rail industry, local enterprise partnerships and the Department for Transport to take the scheme forward.

At a meeting on Monday, councillors considered the study’s findings when drawing up their core planning strategy and to safeguard the former rail route from development that could hamper its reopening.

The study said the cost of work to reinstate the missing section of the line, improve the Long Marston branch line and rebuild a triangular junction at Honeybourne to allow trains to run direct to and from Oxford, would be £76 million.

However, an allowance for extra costs, based on advice from Network Rail, could push this figure up to £96.9 million.

John Ellis, chairman of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, which represents passengers, was a member of the steering group set up by the council to oversee the study.

He said: “I think we have got a very good base from the study, which I am pleased with. We will continue to keep going, referencing the study and looking for further support for the implementation of the scheme.”

The group was among organisations which contributed to the cost of the study, along with Worcestershire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, developer St Modwen, which is building 500 homes at Long Marston, and train operator First Great Western, which also wants to reinstate Oxford-Stratford trains via Banbury and Leamington.

The connection at Honeybourne allowing direct running between Oxford and Stratford was closed in 1965, while the Long Marston- Stratford section was shut in 1976.

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