Posted 22nd October 2012 | 16 Comments

Good business case for Stratford-Cotswolds link

Network Rail banner 'we're investing in your railway line' at Charlbury

Network Rail has invested some £70 million in redoubling 34km of the North Cotswolds line

A NEWLY published plan says restoring a rail link between Stratford-on-Avon and Honeybourne on the North Cotswolds line would provide a useful addition to the network and has a good business case. Trains would be able to run south of Stratford, a major tourist destination, to Worcester and Oxford and possibly further afield.

The report, prepared by Arup for Stratford-on-Avon District Council, describes the route as a 'promising candidate for reinstatement'. It says that £76 million invested in restoring about 10km of route and building an intermediate station at Long Marston could yield a cost/benefit ratio of better than 2:1, partly thanks to savings in journey time but also because it would provide a boost to tourism and could be used by freight trains.

Restoring the link, some of which would be double track, would also provide an alternative route between Birmingham and Oxford via the North Cotswolds line between Oxford and Honeybourne. Sections of this line have recently been redoubled as part of a £70 million Network Rail scheme.

Passenger services were withdrawn between Honeybourne and Stratford in May 1969 and most of the line closed to all traffic in 1976, although a 4km stub remains in use between Honeybourne and the MOD sidings at Long Marston.

The report points out that since closure 'a number of developments have taken place along the route, such as residential units, business premises and new highway infrastructure. This has added a number of complications and constraints.'

The hurdles which would need to be overcome include the fact that much of the former railway has become a cycleway, and that permission would unlikely to be given for a level crossing to be reinstated south of Stratford station. The cost of the scheme includes building a new cutting at this point to take the track under the road, while the cycleway would be diverted. A new east-facing chord would also be needed at Honeybourne to provide a connection in the direction of Oxford and London.

A local action group is opposing the plans, particularly because the cycleway would be affected. The campaigners are also claiming that there would be environmental disadvantages such as increased noise, although the report says just nine properties would lie within the 55dB(A) noise contour 'which represents the threshold for annoyance'. It adds that the effect on these properties could be reduced by noise barriers.

The next stage may depend on the reaction of the industry. The report recommends that the supporters of the scheme seek a rail industry sponsor and also promote the project with various agencies, including Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Ralph Holmes, Chedgrave

    An alternative route to Cheltenham might be to reopen the line from Evesham to Ashchurch: it has the advantage that nobody seems to have bought it yet.
    Cheltenham - Evesham - Stratford - Leamington: why stop there? Re-open Leamington to WCML and carry right on to Milton Keynes.

  • George Davidson, Newport

    The ideal situation would be to have Cheltenham once again linked with Stratford even if that meant using the Gloucestershire Warwickshire heritage railway to provide the services. As things are, they don't even have a connection to Cheltenham's station.

  • Sally, Solihull

    Rail travel is the way for the future, railways are being rebuilt all over the country.
    You can move a lot more people or freight by rail in a smaller footprint than road. Rail travel is quicker, safer and greener than by road. The roads are getting more clogged with traffic each day. Stratford on Avon will benefit no end by having the railway back in many ways. So what! there will be some disruption while it is been built, it’s a small price to pay, its the future that matters and the wider population of the country, not just a few people who happen to live where a railway line once was. I would rather live near a railway line (I do) than a highway where you can hear a constant drone of traffic noise, modern trains are far more quieter. There is more vibration from heavy lorries, which we should discourage by putting more freight on the rail, one train can replace several lorries. Pathway can put anywhere to replace the Greenway for dog walking etc. The borders are having their railway relayed, which has involved demolishing houses and flats which have been built over the last forty years on the track bed.
    Nimpies should get a life and not stand the way of progress. It is not if the railway will come back, but when. Sooner the better!

  • Geraint Griffiths, Chester

    Local action groups, don't you just love them.

  • Andrew, Oxford

    Although a good idea, the DfT and councils would need to investigate the scheme on a wider scale, maximising the benefits of reinstating a new rail corridor. Perhaps a new London Paddington-Oxford-Moreton-Stratford-Birmingham would boost passenger numbers and provide Stratford upon Avon with a much needed service improvement to Birmingham and possibly Dorridge/Solihull if the services were routed that way. Tourism would surely benefit from the scheme and perhaps this could lead the way to complete redoubling of the Cotswold Line, thus reducing overall journey times between Oxford/Stratford and Worcester.

  • Steve Price, Stratford Upon Avon.

    the NIMBYS already have the upper hand. Stratford District Council have just noted the findings of the report, not taking it forward. This needs rail industry support, quickly.

  • Martin, Stratford upon Avon

    Well I am not a nimby on this one as it wont in the slightest impact on me, but as a Stratford resident, I am far more concerned about the totally pathetic services we already have either to the first or second city, let alone worry about connecting to villages. Before you flame me, I write as a daily user of these services, not a distant theorist.

    Dont believe me? Then just check out the timetabling and journey times on the current services.

    e.g. Can get back to Stratford from Birmingham after 2030, cant get into Birmingham before 0730 plus rubbish weekend services.

    I know they are supposed to be changing when Parkway opens, but until they do, we should focus on getting what we have working properly or at least in a way that will encourage more use.

    This will not solve one single problem that Stratford has with traffic, on weekday peaks or at anytime at a weekend - that problem lies with firmly at the door of Stratford District Council and their bizarre approach to planning.

    We dont have a 'coach jam' problem - we have poor planning, poor design, poor rail services - all of which have significant and complicated consequences

    I am sure that the way the town centre is currently dying on its feet, the retailers would welcome a lot more tourist coach traffic.

    Stratford & the Cotswolds are not just for tourists - it is home to thousands of people going about their daily business. It is my home and I commute to Birmingham. We are not props or bit part actors in some country musem to come and be gawked at.

    It seems rather ironic that SDC are happy to waste my Council Tax supporting 51m and fighting against HS2, on various grounds, as well as putting further money into this scheme that will never work with massive financial support, while stripping money out of supporting the bus services in the County.

    I dont want to see my Council waste any more on this until they have sorted out other more pressing issues.

  • Steve, Leamington

    Bring it on! I can't wait to be able to use the line to get to Worcester istead of going through Birmingham, changing trains etc.

    Also, re-open Chipping Campden station please- it would be very useful for hiking in the Costwolds!

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    I suppose we could introduce a charge to use the cycleway that could help fund this scheme and/or clear away the cyclists who always expect a free ride!

    No doubt someone will start a rhumur this route is needed for HS2?

  • Jeff Burke, london

    This is so depressing to read. Stratford & the Cotswolds are tourist areas, capacity is needed to get people to + from the region in an environmentally-aware manner.
    Even after Beeching, Stratford-Honeybourne(-Cheltenham) was 'mothballed' (perhaps not quite unique but a rarity) to give an option for alternative route capacity, even at that stage.
    All in favour of Sustrans + cycle paths to bring new use to redundant paths. But - when the primary reason for those paths being created in the 1str place re-emerge (did they ever really go away...)? Then.......

  • Bob Jackson, Stratford-upon-Avon

    At last Stratford-upon-Avon would be directly connected to Oxford, Moreton-in-the Marsh, Worcester and with a little push from the GWSR Broadway and Cheltenham would only be a change at Honeybourne.

    Top work from Arup/SDC as all the concerns of the 'No Avon Line Group' have been addressed, well until there NIMBY attitude can come up with some more

  • alloy, Caernarfon

    provision should be made for double track all the way.. even if not laid initially. If freight paths are going to be full on existing routes by 2019 it will be needed.
    AND all consultants openings on re-openings have underestimated passenger figures in recen years.

  • Jbzoom, guildford

    An excellent proposal which could substantially reduce Stratfords "coach-jam" problem.

  • Bob Grundy, Lancing

    A point made by '60's opponents of Beeching was that closing a railway is far easier than re-opening it a few years later. If this plan does go ahead, no doubt Swampy and his mates will be there having their fun.

    This highlights two historic failures. One by governments of both colours, to recognise the benefits (environment etc) railways bring to the whole country, not just their users, justifying the whole country paying a subsidy. The other by BR, to maximise use of their assets in a businesslike way. HMG set too high the patronage required to keep a line open: with better management patronage of this line could have been greater; and who knows, it might never have closed.

  • Jim Campbell, Birmingham

    Why stop there, with the Gloucester and Warwicksire railway pushing up to Honeybourne would a little bit of extra line be possible at the southern end to reconect past the racecourse and into Gloucester.
    This would open the possibility of an alternative Birmingham - Bristol route as well

  • Frank Takacs, Brierley Hill

    Having work on the redoubling last year, I remember thinking at the time it would make sense to re-instate the line to Stratford. Especially as Oxford and Stratford are probably the most visited places by tourists outside London, as well as providing a boost to Cotswolds tourism. An additional advantage would be the reduction of tourist coach traffic in the area.