17 June 2009

14 new train links identified

Just over a baker's dozen of large towns in the UK that are not currently connected to the national rail network, could - theoretically - become joined-up in the future after the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) identified cases for all of them to receive rail services.

The first stage of the identifications, contained in ATOC's report named Connecting Communities, is to safeguard all possible land along the projected routes and from this basis further consulation between the affected local authorities and Network Rail can take place.

Does 14 potentially new stations on the network seem an impressive number? The report actually undertook detailed investigations into the possible opening of lines to a total of 75 communities on mainland Britain, and whittled this number down to 14. It's important to note that this does not mean 14 new rail lines will necessarily be built; for the most-part, towns that could gain new stations are either already by-passed by existing lines or would require short spurs off an existing or disused line.

The 'nu Transit' gives a detailed list of these potentially new stations:
  • Aldridge, W Mids
  • Ashington, Northumberland
  • Blyth, Northumberland
  • Bordon, Hants
  • Brixham, Devon
  • Brownhills, W Mids
  • Cranleigh, Surrey
  • Fleetwood, Lancs
  • Hythe, Hants
  • Rawtensall, Lancs
  • Ringwood, Hants
  • Skelmersdale, Lancs
  • Washington, Tyne & Wear
  • Wisbech, Cambs
  • And a stretch passing through Derbyshire, linking Leicester with Burton on Trent.
ATOC has attempted to cost each suggestion, with the values being as low as £3 million, though as high as just £90 million. It is also suggested that theoretically a start on the contruction of these links could take place within the next decade.

In addition, the report identifies 7 towns which could be served by new park and ride stations that could be built on existing lines, providing services for people living in Rushden (Northants), Peterlee (Co. Durham), Kenilworth (Warwicks), Ilkeston & Clay Cross (Derbys), Ossett (W Yorks) and Wantage (Oxon).

ATOC's Chief Executive Michael Roberts said: "Record passenger numbers and rising demand require us to plan for the long term, while climate change and population growth make it vital that in doing so, we adapt the rail network to meet tomorrow's needs. We have established that there is a strong business case for investment to bring a number of towns back onto the rail network. Now we need to safeguard these routes and develop the detailed case for investment."

But the Treasury has the final say, and while the Rail industry especially has Lord Adonis on their side, it's well known that Marsham Street does not like spending money on new rail ventures, especially when it's having its ear constantly bent over the benefits of paying for High Speed 2. (GL)