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Railwatch 075 - April 1998

RDS rescue plan for threatened line

The Government and the Rail Regulator are considering whether to allow the closure of the Sinfin branch in Derbyshire. RDS has objected to the closure of the line which serves an industrial estate in Derby and has put foward with a rescue plan. This will be a test for the Labour Government which when last in power approved wholesale rail closures.

The rescue plan proposed by RDS executive officer Nat Taplin to the Rail Users' Consultative Committee for the Midlands involves the introduction of a train service using "Heritage" diesel units which could be co-ordinated with the commuting and shift patterns at the Rolls-Royce and other factories on the estate. The units could also run up the Derby-Matlock line or offer connections.

The service would obviously need promoting to staff at Rolls-Royce and other firms, which might provide financial support as part of a green commuter plan. There is also of course potential for increasing freight flows following the more flexible wagon-load services now offered by EW&S.

If a viable level of demand can be shown, the line could be upgraded for modern rolling stock and operated as a through service to Matlock or even to Nottingham Road and Chellaston. Another option which would benefit the local community, economy and environment would be to use it as part of a Metro-style service for the Derby area.

The short Sinfin branch was reopened in 1976 by British Rail but in 1992 the service was reduced to just one early-morning round trip to Sinfin, with no return service for home-going workers. This was a clear case of "closure by stealth": first drive passengers away by reducing the service, then claim that the line is uneconomic due to low usage.

The one remaining Derby to Sinfin train, although in the timetable, was illegally discontinued in September 1993, on the grounds that the track circuits were incompatible with the modern Sprinter units used in the area.

The Franchise Director and Central Trains published a new closure notice in November 1997, repeating all the absurd old arguments. North Midlands RDS gave evidence at a public hearing held in Derby on 23 February.

Watford to Croxley Green and the Weymouth Quay line are two other services that British Rail withdrew without going through the statutory closure procedure. If the Sinfin closure is agreed, the outlook is bleak for these and "ghost" services such as the once-weekly journey from Stockport to Guide Bridge.

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