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Protect and re-open disused rail lines, says Transport 2000

26 April 2007
Reopening of many rail lines across the country is essential as part of moves to improve public transport and tackle rail overcrowding, according to campaign group Transport 2000 [1]. The group has today published an initial list of lines that should be considered for reopening, as part of its Growing the Railways campaign to get the Government to commit to major rail investment. [2]

The list, drawn up with input from local authorities, user groups and consultants, comes as the Conservative Party issues a call to protect Britain’s disused railway lines from development, to ensure they can be re-opened one day. [3]

The Conservatives will highlight four examples of routes which need protection, but Transport 2000’s list is longer (see below). The list includes lines that would serve sizeable new developments, including some of the Government’s planned growth areas, and also some “missing links” between regions.

Stephen Joseph, Director of Transport 2000 said: "Rail use by passengers and for freight is having a real renaissance, traffic on the railways is at its highest level since the 1950s and still rising. Re-openings will be needed to serve the many new and planned developments and also to provide better regional links. This is about giving people real choice for more journeys, and tackling congestion and pollution. But many of these lines are under threat from development; for years we have been saying they should be firmly protected through the planning system, and we support the Conservatives’ call for a moratorium on development and a review of their potential."

He added: "The Government will be issuing a rail strategy this summer; we hope that protecting disused lines can be included in that strategy. This should be a non-party issue and we hope the Government will agree to the Conservatives’ request and protect lines for future use."

Route protection of disused railway lines

Britain has seen a 40% increase in passenger kilometres travelled by rail since 1996 [4] and the Government’s own figures forecast a 30% growth in rail passenger miles by 2016 [5]. Rail freight has grown by 66% in the last decade [6]. Increases in capacity can be made in the short to medium term by upgrading existing track, signalling and stations and longer and more frequent trains – but in the long term, capacity will need to be boosted by, among other measures, re-opening lines.

Re-openings are significant not just for increasing capacity but for strategic reasons as well. There are still many parts of the country that are poorly served by public transport and where without access to a car people are socially excluded. Rail plays an increasingly important role in moving freight around the country. Heavy lorries do untold damage to local communities, creating noise, vibration and causing road danger.

Carbon dioxide emissions from road hauliers increased by more than a third between 1990 and 2002. Road freight now accounts for 8% of UK carbon dioxide emissions [7]. It makes complete sense, economically, socially and environmentally, to get more freight off the roads, away from communities and on to rail. There are many disused railway lines that once served to carrry freight from docks and ports around the country, these urgently need protection.

This list of disused railways lines is by no means complete; it merely illustrates the potential for re-openings across the country. The list has been drawn up in consultation with transport specialists. Clearly other options – like better bus links – should be looked at as well, but we argue that in some cases only heavy rail will cope with the traffic expected.

1. Reopenings to serve new development, which have local authority support


  • Shanklin – Ventnor (South East)
  • Uckfield – Lewes (South East)
  • Aylesbury & Bicester – Bletchley (South East)
  • Okehampton – Tavistock – Bere Alston (South West)
  • Watford-Croxley Green (East of England)
  • Braintree – Stansted (East of England)
  • Bedford – Northampton (East Midlands)
  • Kettering – Corby (East Midlands)
  • Leicester – Coalville – Burton (East Midlands)
  • Longbridge – Frankley (West Midlands)
  • Skipton – Colne (North West, Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Harrogate – Ripon – Northallerton (Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Malton – Pickering (Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Ferryhill – Pelaw (Leamside Branch) (North East)
  • Alnmouth – Alnwick (North East)
  • Penrith – Keswick (North West)
  • Bangor – Caernarfon (Wales)

2. Reopenings to create strategic and interregional links



  • Stratford – Cheltenham (South West, West Midlands)
  • Spalding – March (East of England)
  • Hitchin – Bedford (East of England)
  • Leicester-Aylesbury (East Midlands, South East)
  • Matlock – Buxton (East Midlands, North West)
  • Leek to Stoke (West Midlands)
  • Walsall – Lichfield (West Midlands)
  • Swinton/Mexborough – Cudworth (Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Oakenshaw South Junction – Goose Hill Junction (Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Hadfield – Penistone – Deepcar (Woodhead route) (Yorkshire and the Humber, North West)
  • Redmire – Garsdale (Yorkshire and the Humber, North West)
  • Silkstone – Wath – Mexborough (Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Carlisle – Galashiels (Waverley Route) (North West, Scotland)

3. Long-term potential re-openings



  • Haywards Heath-Horsted Keynes (South East)
  • Rugby to Southam (West Midlands)
  • Hampton in Arden to Whitacre Junction (West Midlands)
  • Kenilworth-Berkswell (West Midlands)
  • Partington-Glazebrook (North West)
  • Blaneau to Trawsfynydd branch (Wales)
  • Amwlch branch (Wales)

Notes to editors


[1] Transport 2000 is an independent campaigning and research body that represents the key transport interests of around 40 environmental groups, transport organisations and transport unions. We bring together people who seek to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport through encouraging less use of cars, lorries and planes and more use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking.

[2] In October 2005, Transport 2000 launched its Growing the Railways campaign, endorsed by 21 other organisations including the TUC, RMT, Scope, the Ramblers and Help the Aged. The national campaign calls on the Government to plan for a growing railway network as it prepares its new strategy on the future of rail, due in summer 2007. The campaign’s mascot is Sardine Man.

[3] On Thursday 26 April, Chris Grayling, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, alongside Stephen Joseph of Transport 2000, will be making an announcement about the future of disused railway lines in the UK. All media are invited to attend: 09.30: Chris Grayling and Stephen Joseph will arrive at Swanbourne Station, Station Road, Swanbourne MK17 0ST -- accompanied by Sardine Man. 12.00: Chris Grayling and Stephen Joseph will give a press briefing at The Hospitality Office, Religious Society of Friends, Friends House 173 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ.

[4] Office of Rail Regulation Website 2007: www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.8192

[5] Network Rail’s Initial Strategic Business Plan 2006

[6] Office of Rail Regulation Trends 2006

[7] Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2005