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Reopen these rail lines and put 500,000 people in reach of the railways

5 February 2019

Campaign for Better Transport today called on the Government to invest £4.8 billion in expanding the railway network to reach the most disconnected and disadvantaged communities.

In a new report, The case for expanding the rail network, it outlines how a national reopening programme would initially create 33 new rail lines with 72 new stations, allowing an additional 20 million rail passenger journeys a year by bringing over 500,000 people within walking distance of a train station. It would also create or safeguard up to 6,500 jobs in construction and engineering and 1,650 new railway jobs.

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“Expanding the railways would transform the opportunities for people living in some of the most deprived areas of the country, giving them greater access to employment and services and providing a much needed boost to local economies.  

“The Government should invest in a nationally led programme of expansion of the railway to help disadvantaged communities and tackle regional inequalities; reduce carbon emissions and air pollution; and create better and healthier places to live.”

The report argues that an initial national programme of 33 schemes, which met its criteria for investment based on their viability and social, economic and environmental benefits, should be prioritised.

Examples of lines identified as a priority include:

  • March to Wisbech, Cambridgeshire - reopening this line would link the large, relatively deprived, town of Wisbech to employment, education and training and also serve the proposed Wisbech Garden Town of some 12,000 new houses
  • Totton to Hythe to Fawley, Hampshire - this freight-only line should be converted to also offer passenger services to Southampton, reducing air pollution and relieving pressure on congested roads adjacent to the New Forest National Park
  • Ashington, Blyth and Tyne, Northumberland - this line would significantly improve connectivity for several large towns and allow passengers to access the Tyne and Wear Metro.

The case for expanding the rail network has been produced with support from the RMT.

Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary,  said:

“For years politicians have been talking up the benefits of reopening lines but few reach construction due to a lack of a national approach and public investment.

“That needs to change because there is an overwhelming case for a Government backed national programme of public rail reopenings to help meet the huge economic, environmental and social challenges facing the UK. These reopenings will ultimately pay for themselves via the benefits they generate for society.”

In the 1960s the Beeching Report led to the closure of 5,000 miles of rail track. Fifty years later, rail travel is more popular than at any point since Victorian times, but despite hundreds of reopenings being proposed, few reach construction, due in part to the lack of national oversight with identifying and promoting projects currently left to local authorities and investors. The case for expanding the rail network argues for a national Government expansion programme with short and medium term funding, and outlines the process by which schemes could be selected.

The full list of priority rail links, as well as details of the methodology used to identify them, can be found in The case for expanding the rail network.


For further information please contact the press office on 020 3746 2235 or communications@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. The proposed programme of expansion to the railway would:
    1. Add 343 miles to the passenger rail network (166 miles of reopened route and 177 miles of freight only route upgraded to passenger rail standards)
    2. Create 72 new stations
    3. Generate up to 20 million additional passenger journeys
    4. Bring over 500,000 people within walking distance of a station
    5. Create up to 6,500 jobs, with 1,650 new railway jobs augmented with between 1,000 and 3,000 jobs in the supply chain and 2,000 in construction and engineering
    6. Support the objectives of 17 Air Quality Management Areas
    7. Serve well over 100 wards identified as disadvantaged
    8. Cost between £4.76 billion and £6.39 billion (phase one £1.28 billion to £1.81 billion, and phase two £3.48 billion to £4.58 billion)
    9. Create an annual Gross Value Added (GVA) of £155 million and £245 million with numerous indirect benefits.
  2. 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).
  3. The case for expanding the rail network was produced by Campaign for Better Transport with support from the RMT. The views expressed in the report are those of the author.