Plan to reopen disused railways ‘is on the right lines’
A plan to reopen up to 50 disused train lines or stations is definitely on the right track, says Midlands green energy expert Ron Fox.
He was commenting on a scheme to bring back passenger services in England and Wales on railways for the first time in 50 years since they were axed in the Beeching cuts of 1963.
Fifty bids have been entered by local authorities and MPs for Government money and a decision on which ones are successful is expected to be made over the summer.
“Any move to improve local travel links and to encourage more people to leave their cars behind and travel by train is good for the green economy and the environment,” said Ron Fox, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park. “It will reduce the amount of harmful gases from vehicles going into the atmosphere and also help kickstart our financial recovery from Covid-19.”
The idea is part of the £500m Restoring Your Railway Fund for England and Wales launched earlier this year by the Government to boost regional economies and provide new jobs.
The aim is to reverse the cuts by a former chairman of British Railways, Dr Richard Beeching, who published a report in 1963 that around a third of the network should be axed because of low demand and high costs. Between 1964 and 1970, some 1,400 stations (33 per cent) and 5,200 miles of track (15 per cent) were closed.
To show the effect of the cutbacks, in 1961 there were 17,800 miles of railway track in Britain, of which 4,100 miles were for freight traffic only. By the end of 2019 this had fallen to 9,800 mils of track with just 750 miles for freight traffic.
At present many of the disused tracks are used for cycling and walking or dedicated freight routes or heritage lines run by volunteers.
A panel led by the rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, and including the chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, will consider the applications over the next few weeks and the successful ones will be awarded up to £50,000 from the £500m fund.
That money will be given to the local authorities and community groups to pay for feasibility projects looking into how local services could be reinstated. It is expected that the cost of building the lines will come from alternative state and private sources.
However, there is a separate £20m new station fund to build or upgrade stations on existing lines.
The Government has already approved 12 grants towards projects in the North East, Lancashire, Leicestershire and Hampshire.
Other bids submitted include reopening Charfield station in Gloucestershire, the rail link between Stratford-upon-Avon and Honeybourne to connect with the Worcester to Oxford line and turning the heritage lines at Wymondham, Norfolk, and Bodmin, Cornwall, into full passenger operations.
“These are very exciting and widespread plans,” said Ron, “which could help revitalise the railways and transport network as well as cutting our carbon footprint.”
For advice on all green energy matters contact Ron Fox on 0845 474 6641.