Thursday, 31st July 2014

Ambitious plans for rail link

Rail chiefs this week unveiled ambitious plans to re-open Newport train station and create a direct line to Stafford.

Shropshire, Telford and the Marches Strategic Rail Group has voted to lobby the government to re-open the Telford to Stafford line, which closed in 1964, creating a direct link to London in under two-and-a-half hours.

Councillor Eric Carter, the new vice-chairman of the group, said it would be an important development in Newport’s growth.

He said: “We’d put a station in Newport and probably one back in Gnosall again to get to Stafford. I know of hundreds of people locally who travel to Stafford to catch the train to go to London on a regular basis. If they could pick the train up at Newport, wouldn’t that be so much better?”

The total cost of re-opening the line, including electrification, has been estimated at £230m.

The likely location for a new station in Newport would be off the bypass near Mere Park.

And Councillor Carter has driven along the proposed route with officials from Network Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).

He added: “We have put a plan in place to make sure no further developments occur on the line that would be the route to Stafford. There might be some developments that have already taken place, but our planners and Staffordshire planners have made sure that no further obstacles will be allowed.

“From Stafford to the Newport boundary there is one problem which is the bridge at Gnosall which has been taken down, but that’s do-able. The Church Aston route we couldn’t use because the land has been sold off, but there is a line we could take which follows the Newport bypass.”

The group, which includes members of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire councils, believes that there is no room for expansion at Birmingham New Street and that a route via Stafford is the quickest, cheapest and most realistic option for re-establishing a direct link from Shrewsbury to the capital.

Councillor Carter added: “People will say Eric Carter’s gone pie in the sky, but it’s very do-able. If people haven’t got any ambition that’s their problem – but I have.”

By Sean Wozencroft