Government rejects case for reopening Stratford-Honeybourne railway line
THE fight to restore the railway line between Stratford and Honeybourne looks to be over after the government announced the proposals would not be taken forward.
Transport minister Wendy Morton MP, announced yesterday (Friday) that the business case “did not demonstrate sufficient potential economic benefits of reopening the route between Stratford and Honeybourne to justify taking this project forward.”
And added: “There was also no indication of the potential market for these services.”
Supporters of the project saw the scheme as having the potential to deal with some of Stratford’s traffic congestion. With more homes being built in the area and no sign of funding being available for the south-western relief road, there are fears the traffic situation will get steadily worse.
The section of the railway line, which was closed following a freight train derailment in 1976, could have enabled train services to run between Birmingham and the South West and South Wales and direct services to and from Oxford and the Thames Valley and London Paddington.
A circular service directly linking Birmingham with Stratford, Shirley, Solihull, Henley, Long Marston, Evesham, Pershore, Worcester and Stourbridge would have also been possible.
The decision was described as a hammer blow for the four Rail User Groups (RUGs) which mounted the bid, working with Wychavon District Council, which led a submission under the government's Restoring Your Railway scheme.
The proposal was sponsored by Nigel Huddleston, the MP for Mid-Worcestershire.
Peter Morris, chair of the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group said: "It is a sad day for Stratford and the surrounding district, which is increasingly plagued by unsustainable levels of road traffic putting off potential visitors to the district, which are crucial to the area's local economy."
He added: “We believe the submission was strong and are disappointed that the broader network and economic benefits that would have arisen from restoring the missing rail link failed to get the submission to the next stage. The rail link would have also provided a much-needed and complete solution to the sustainable transport needs at the Long Marston new village development.
“Nevertheless, SLPG took a view several years ago that a proper economic appraisal must inform any reopening decision. With this announcement, we will keep to our word and consequently will no longer proactively campaign to restore the Stratford-Honeybourne section of railway line.
“Improvements to train services are limited compared to the opportunities that would have been available from reopening Stratford-Honeybourne. However, SLPG's focus will now be on improving existing railway services as much as possible from and to Stratford and all places on its two lines, one being with Birmingham and the other Leamington Spa/London and we look forward to comprehensively engaging with the relevant stakeholders on such matters."
The decision will please the Stratford Greenway Group which has long been against the reopening of the railway line, arguing that it would harm the environment and that there are huge practical obstacles in the way.