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Stratford District Council supports Honeybourne rail study

Long-term proposals to re-open the Stratford to Honeybourne Rail Line could be back on track with Stratford District Council appearing to soften its stance on the idea.

Back in 2019 the council considered a report in the potential cost of reopening the line and decided not to examine the idea any further, having been put off by the £110million price tag.

Supporters of the project argued that the council was wrong to come to that conclusion solely on the basis of the cost, arguing that an economic impact assessment examining the economic benefits to the area of re-opening the line, should be considered alongside this.

The project appeared to have stalled until last year when the Government agreed to fund that economic study, following a successful bid for funding from the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group and three other rail user groups.

Last week the Herald asked Stratford District Council whether it would reconsider its stance on the Honeybourne Rail Line once it has both reports available.

Cllr Daren Pemberton, deputy leader of Stratford District Council, said: “The Government has decided to take another look at this project along with a large number of others, as part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda and its plans to secure recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A steering group of organisations who supported the bid, including local authorities and local rail groups, has been established to work up a wider economic benefits study which the District Council supports and is represented on. Its purpose is to understand and demonstrate whether the benefits outweigh the costs of re-opening. This will inform Government decisions about prioritising schemes that can be delivered, will work and result in real benefits.”

He added: “Whilst the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group are keen to see the return of heavy rail, this should not be seen as the only option. It is our view that other solutions including very light rail or trams should also be considered and explored as they may be able to deliver more frequent connectivity for Stratford and Long Marston in an environmentally sustainable and cost effective way.

“There is now an opportunity to secure funding that just would not have been there but for the pandemic and we all need to be open minded about bringing forward a project that has a chance of success in competition with dozens of other projects around the country.”

Peter Morris, chairman of the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, said: “We welcome Stratford District Council’s support, and indeed the support of all local authorities, for the study into the economic impact of reopening the railway line between Stratford upon Avon and Honeybourne.

“We have consistently said and our position remains that any reopening scheme must be comprehensively examined not just for its costs but for its economic and environmental benefits too.”

The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group added that all three district and county councils surrounding the Honeybourne line are now supporting the work being done on the economic impact assessment and will provide their position on the whole project itself once that has been completed.

However any re-opening of the line will not be without its opposition, the Stratford Greenway Group have long been against any such plan, arguing that it would harm the environment and that there are huge practical obstacles in the way.

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