With the government announcing funding for restoring lost railway connections, Quadrant Transport looks at how this will better connect isolated towns in England and Wales.
The Autumn Budget has confirmed that 13 more projects have been awarded up to £50,000 each to progress their plans to reinstate stations and restore lines.
Towns and communities across England and Wales left isolated when their railways were closed are one step closer to having their connections restored, as part of the government’s Restoring Your Railway programme.
More than 50 years since the railways were radically reshaped during the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s when thousands of miles of both track and stations were closed, this latest investment will kick-start development on more projects that have the potential to reinvigorate local economies and level up opportunity across the country.
The 1963 cuts saw 2,300 stations closed and up to 5,000 miles of track axed across the UK
The plans will include restoring the Don Valley Line between Sheffield and Stocksbridge in Yorkshire to regular passenger services and reconnecting the Staffordshire town of Leek to the rail network with the Stoke-Leek line.
The connection between Stockport and Ashton in the north-west will also be restarted with the funding, and a rebuild of the line between Tavistock and Bere Alston in Devon, connecting Tavistock and Plymouth by rail is set to begin.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Quadrant Transport: “Our efforts to undo the damage of the Beeching closures are gathering pace, with work on new stations and lines that can level up communities right across the UK.”
I share the enthusiasm and ambition of local campaigners across the country pushing for their local lines to be reopened and this additional funding will help progress many more schemes.
With the Dartmoor Line opening in the coming days, we’re already laying tracks across the country and connecting communities for the first time in decades.”
Two projects from round one of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund are also being funded to progress with further development work: the Waterside line (Southampton to Fawley via Hythe) and Wellington and Cullompton Stations in Somerset and Devon respectively.
The latest projects form part of the third round of the Restoring Your Railway ‘Ideas Fund’
Entries have been specifically judged on their ability to deliver real economic benefits and support left-behind communities, with investment targeted at schemes with the potential to regenerate local economies by opening up access to jobs and education, supporting new housing developments and boosting tourism
Winners announced include the Waterside Line, receiving a further £7 million of investment for development for the next stage in development following success in round one of the Ideas Fund.
This scheme could see services reintroduced between Southampton and Fawley, providing faster journey times and help support a shift to more sustainable modes of transport, while supporting employment opportunities and new homes being built locally. The area saw its rail links cut in 1966 and local roads have since become heavily congested.
The development of new stations at Wellington and Cullompton, following closures in the 1960s, could see stations added to connect communities in Somerset and Devon.
With a further £5 million of funding announced, these stations have the potential to open up a credible alternative to the car for residents, relieving congestion on the M5 and A38. The stations would also support nearly 10,000 new homes that are planned for the area.
Over the past year, proposals from MPs alongside local authorities, communities, and campaigners, for the third round of the ‘Ideas Fund’ were considered by an expert panel, chaired by the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris and including Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy.