THE HOT topic of reopening the Honeybourne railway line has been backed by the planning inspector who oversaw Stratford District Council’s Core Strategy.
Peter Drew – who last month declared the town’s future housing plan ‘sound’ – has said reinstating the missing section of line between Stratford and Long Martson could provide a long-term solution to the town’s traffic congestion.
Stratford District Council leader Chris Saint has voiced his support for the project, which has been estimated would cost around £53million, but Warwickshire County Council has been accused by campaigners Stratford-Worcester-Oxford (SWO) of passing the buck by refusing to support a study into the viability of the six mile link.
Mr Drew said: “There is an opportunity to re-appraise the contribution that rail reinstatement could make as part of the ‘Transport Strategy for Stratford-upon-Avon’ that is currently underway.
“It would appear to provide a long-term solution to the town’s traffic congestion.”
Mr Drew added a study – which would detail the business case and schedule for implementing resources – would be need to be carried out as soon as possible and would be a trigger for the rail industry to get involved.
He continued the process would then be able to move forward and Stratford District Council could seek a financial contribution from Long Marston developers Cala Homes.
He concluded: “Realistically this is the only chance for the line to be reinstated and without this significant contribution being secured from the private sector it might never happen.”
Fraser Pithie, secretary of the Shakespeare Line group and a member of the SWO campaign, believed the inspector’s comments made it clear local authorities had one chance to investigate fully and consider reopening the line and potentially secure a significant amount of developer funding towards a proper study.
He told The Observer: “The rural areas in three counties around Long Marston need reinstating the railway to be looked at properly if they are to avoid being plagued by traffic congestion for decades.
“And Stratford’s town centre businesses, which could attract nearly 300,000 additional visitors a year with a reopened railway link, deserve the support of their elected councillors and MP towards getting this study done.
“Mr Drew makes it clear that timing is of the essence, so the study needs to happen and take place as soon as possible.”