PLANS to restore the railway line between Stratford and Honeybourne look to have been shelved for good after the government announced the proposals would not be taken forward.
The announcement proves bad news for traffic congestion in Stratford town centre and commuting across the country, but good news for the wildlife that now lives across the disused line.
Transport minister Wendy Morton MP said on Friday (June 17) that the business case “did not demonstrate sufficient potential economic benefits of reopening the route between Stratford and Honeybourne to justify taking this project forward.”
She added: “There was also no indication of the potential market for these services.”
Those in favour of the project saw it as having the potential to deal with some of Stratford’s traffic congestion. Especially as there are more homes being built in the area and no sign of funding being available for the south-western relief road, it is feared traffic problems could only get worse.
The section of railway line was closed following a freight train derailment in 1976 and has since been left to become overgrown and as a result, a haven for wildlife.
The announcement is therefore good news for nature-lovers with rare spottings of animals, insects, flora and fauna including the threatened grizzled skipper butterfly. The disused railway line has also become a popular destination for walkers and runners.
Stratford Greenway Group has in particular been at the forefront of the campaign against re-opening the railway line based on environmental considerations and the huge practical obstacles in the way.
If the plans had been given the green light, reinstating the section of railway line back to use would have opened up a whole host of other possible rail journeys. Train services could have run between Birmingham and the South West and South Wales and direct services to and from Oxford and the Thames Valley and London Paddington would have been available.
A circular service directly linking Birmingham with Stratford, Shirley, Solihull, Henley, Long Marston, Evesham, Pershore, Worcester and Stourbridge would also have been possible.
The decision was described as a hammer blow for the four Rail User Groups (RUGs) which mounted the bid, working with Wychavon District Council, which led a submission under the government’s Restoring Your Railway scheme.
The plans were backed by Nigel Huddleston, the MP for Mid-Worcestershire.
While Peter Morris, chair of the Stratford Rail Transport Group, said: “It is a sad day for Stratford and the surrounding district, which is increasingly plagued by unsustainable levels of road traffic putting off potential visitors to the district, which are crucial to the area’s local economy.
“We believe the submission was strong and are disappointed that the broader network and economic benefits that have arisen from restoring the missing rail link failed to get the submission to the next stage.”
He added that with this announcement, he would keep to his word and no longer proactively campaign to restore the Stratford-Honeybourne section of railway line and instead focus on improving existing local railway services.