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Railwatch 070 - December 1996

Rails to Cranleigh

There have been repeated attempts to reopen the railway from Guildford to Cranleigh but so far they have all been defeated by a combination of bad luck and dirty tricks.

Now, though, campaigners think they have won the intitiative and may see a £26 million reopening scheme come to fruition, more than 30 years after the Beeching axe swung. Railtrack and Surrey County Council are being positive about the eight-mile former London, Brighton and South Coast route.

With brilliant timing, RDS North Downs published a special study into the advantages of reopening the line just as the county council considered a Railtrack briefing on the subject. "We think we got in just at the right time," said John Lillywhite. "We have to find a way to reopen the line now."

His report, circulated to rail operators, newspapers and local councils, points out how valuable the line could be in reducing road traffic. The RDS report shows that people from Cranleigh travel in their cars to railheads at Farncombe, Godalming and Horsley stations and some even "risk the crawl" into Guildford on the overcrowded A281.

The big beneficiaries of shifting these people on to trains all the way from Cranleigh will be the communities of Bramley, Shalford, Hascombe and the Pitch Hill area of Ewhurst.

RDS has suggested four alternative plans with various combinations of new stations, and has highlighted the infrastructure works needed to carry out each plan.

One of the key factors in making further progress will be to interest South West Trains or Thames Trains into running trains to Cranleigh. RDS hopes to prove there is potential for a big increase in revenue with few extra operating costs.

Surrey County Council has estimated that 3,500 people a week would use the reopened line, bringing the operator £840,000 in annual revenue.

Mr Lillywhite has also been involved in the production of a video about the line from Guildford through Cranleigh to Horsham. There is over two hours of intriguing archive footage but the dirty tricks involved in the closure are also revealed. And the argument for reopening is also strongly made in The Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway.

John's father worked on the railway and he has spent many hours of detective work in the archives. Published by Oakwood Video, it can be obtained at a special price of £20 (including p and p) from John Barfield, 108 Berwick Road, London E16 3DS. Make cheques payable to RDS.

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