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Advance media briefing: Borders Railway reopening – where next?

4 August 2015 

The Borders Railway, which runs from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, is set to reopen on 6 September (2015) after almost 50 years of closure. A victim of Dr Beeching’s axe, the line was closed in 1969 but after years of local campaigning a deal was struck in 2012 between Transport Scotland and Network Rail to restore passenger services.

The Borders Railway is the latest in a series of reopenings of stations and lines across the country. In May this year the first direct train service between East Lancashire and Manchester in over 40 years opened to passengers. The reinstatement of 500 metres of track, known as the Todmorden Curve, has now put Burnley within commuting distance of Manchester and will be a vital catalyst for economic growth in the area. The reopening of the line was the result of years of campaigning and funding from the Regional Growth Fund.

Those lines and stations that have reopened since Beeching have proved enormously popular with passengers and numbers continue to go from strength to strength:

  • Bramley Station was reopened by Metro West Yorkshire in 1983. Annual passenger numbers nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010 to 160,000.
  • Outwood station, also reopened by Metro West Yorkshire on the site of the former Lofthouse and Outwood Station, was the start or destination for 350,000 journeys in 2010.
  • Chandler's Ford in Hampshire reopened in 2003 having previously closed in 1969 and is now used for over 100,000 journeys each year.

In January 2013, the Government announced a £20m New Stations Fund. Five proposed stations were chosen to receive funds under the programme: Pye Corner in Newport, which benefitted from a £2.5m grant and opened in 2014; Lea Bridge in East London, which is set to open in 2016; Ilkeston in Derbyshire, where work set to begin this year; Newcourt, which opened this year and is the first new station in Devon for 20 years; and Kenilworth in Warwickshire which is set to open in 2016.

Here, Campaign for Better Transport highlights 12 other lines with a strong economic and social case for reopening.

Campaign for Better Transport’s Top 12 Rail Line Reopenings

  1. Ashington - Blyth - Newcastle: A victim of Beeching’s cuts, the line remained open to freight, meaning it would be relatively straightforward to reinstate passenger trains. Returning passenger services would significantly improve transport connections in a well-populated area in long-term economic decline. Northumberland County Council is supporting the scheme and reintroducing services will be one of the options in the new Northern Rail Franchise.
  2. Portishead - Bristol: Returning passenger services to the Portishead line would support this fast-growing part of Bristol's commuter belt. The rail link would help tackle road congestion and reduce an hour long car trip during rush hour to around 17 minutes by train. A potential site for a new station at Portishead has been identified and the reopening has now got funding as part of a wider Bristol Metro network, with completion by 2019.
  3. South Staffordshire Railway: Connecting Stourbridge, Walsall and Lichfield, reinstating this route would have both passenger and freight benefits. It would reduce road congestion and have the potential to make the controversial 'Brownhills Eastern Bypass' unnecessary, whilst allowing rail freight to bypass congested Birmingham and potentially remove heavy lorries off the roads.
  4. Leamside line: The 20 mile Leamside line in County Durham closed in 1991. The route has great potential for both freight and passenger services offering Durham’s 60,000 residents an alternative to the busy East Coast mainline and A1 motorway, and providing a freight link to the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. Reopening the line has been identified as a priority by both Durham County Council and the Freight on Rail campaign.
  5. Lewes - Uckfield: Reinstating this line would allow trains to run directly from west Kent and east Surrey to Brighton's economic and social hub, significantly reducing pressure on the congested road network. It would also offer a diversionary route for the Brighton Main Line, an important strategic element the network currently lacks.
  6. Skipton - Colne: Restoring 11 miles of track would create an additional trans-Pennine rail route linking the West and East Coast Main Lines and connect the socially deprived and depressed areas of North-East Lancashire to the more prosperous West Yorkshire area.
  7. Leicester - Burton-on-Trent: Re-establishing passenger services on this 30 mile stretch of line, currently used for freight, would provide 100,000 people with access to the rail network and reduce pressure on local roads. The line would also provide a tourist route through the National Forest.
  8. Fleetwood - Preston: Reopening the six mile line, closed to passenger services since 1970, along with two new stations would support economic regeneration in an area of 60,000 people and reduce pressure on local roads.
  9. Wisbech - March: With around 30,000 people living in and around Wisbech, it is one of the larger settlements in the country not on the rail network and its isolated position has contributed to its economic decline. Reopening the seven miles of line between Wisbech and March would enable access to the regional centres of Peterborough and Cambridge and support regeneration initiatives.
  10. Totton - Hythe: Closed to passengers in 1966, the growth of many of the towns on this seven mile line, and the resultant pressure on the road network, has created a strong case for reopening. To maximise benefit to commuters a direct link with services to Southampton via Chandlers Ford would need to be established. Reopening costs are not thought to be prohibitive as the line has remained open for freight, serving the Fawley oil refinery.
  11. East-West Rail Link: This would re-establish the rail link between Cambridge and Oxford and improve rail services between East Anglia, Central and Southern England. The western section of the scheme from Oxford to Bedford was approved by the Government in November 2011, with completion expected in 2019.
  12. Bere Alston - Tavistock  - Okehampton: This first stage of this line is already subject to a planning application and would link Tavistock with Plymouth and the national rail network, thereby enabling new housing while reducing traffic on the A386 and providing a tourist route to Cornwall and West Devon’s mining landscape. A second stage, reopening to Okehampton, would provide an inland alternative to the coastal route for trains to Cornwall.

 

Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive, said: “Filling in the missing links in our rail network offers the most cost effective way of alleviating congestion, reducing social isolation and improving economic prospects. Rail reopenings have huge local support, are good for business and can offer economically deprived areas a new lease of life. You only have to look at the number of passengers using the new stations and lines to see how viable and popular they are and I am sure that the Borders Railway will be no different.”

ENDS

Campaign for Better Transport spokespeople are available for interviews and/or opinion pieces. For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

 

Notes to Editors

  1. The 1963 report The Reshaping of British Railways, more commonly known as the Beeching report, resulted in the closure of 2,128 stations (more than half of the then total); the closure of  6,000 miles of railway line (a third of the total); and the loss of 67,000 jobs.
  2. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Beeching Report, Campaign for Better Transport published Reopening Railways: the case for growing the rail network and how it can be achieved. Read the full report here.
  3. The Campaign for Better Transport website has a comprehensive list of proposed rail line reopening schemes by area. Read the list here.
  4. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).

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