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Railwatch 068 - July 1996

Rail for the future

By Steve Rackett

More than 250 stations have reopened in the past 25 years - a tremendous achievement for which RDS can claim a great deal of the credit. Even the Government - which has been decidedly awkward about supporting many of the schemes - is now boasting about having presided over them. But it is not enough.

RDS wants to see many more stations and even lines reopened, reversing the disastrous Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

Despite the fact that many in the industry feel privatisation will make reopening more difficult, the environmental arguments for them have never been stronger. Two dozen proposals are featured in a new leaflet produced by the Reopenings Committee.

Following the successful example of the Robin Hood line, the lines between Bedford and Sandy, and Huntingdon to Fen Drayton are now top of the list. These would provide the key links needed to create a long-distance east-west route, which was the subject of the recent study carried out by Steer, Davies Gleave.

Other schemes on the list include Walsall- Brownhills, needing a five mile re-instatement, Uckfield-Lewes (seven miles), Bideford-Barnstaple (nine miles), and Penrith-Keswick in the Lake District. The latter would require 18 miles of track, but Cumbria County Council is funding a further study, recognising the need to relieve increasing road traffic problems.

Appearing for the first time at number 21 on the national list, following a positive feasibility study, is the Shanklin-Wroxall- Ventnor link, on the Isle of Wight. "We are delighted that this scheme has national recognition," said Adrian Searle of the Ventnor Railway Association.

The island is another area facing increasing traffic problems, especially in the summer. The importance of switching traffic from road to rail has become even more clear with the building of the Newbury by-pass at a cost of over £100 million! Although the Government last year announced major reductions in the road building programme, this now appears to have been done for financial and not environmental reasons.

The Government is backing design, build, finance initiatives, and at the time of writing, refuses to deny that the Salisbury by-pass has been given approval.

RDS have organised a National Reopenings Conference on 29 June at Bicester, Oxfordshire, starting at 12 noon. Speakers include Dick Helling of Oxfordshire County Council, and Jim Steer of consultants Steer, Davies, Gleave.

The fee is £8, including buffet lunch (£10 for non-members). Without refreshment the fee is £2 (£4 for non-members). You have until 26 June to send your booking to David Soames, 158 Atherstone Avenue, Peterborough PE3 9UN.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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