A potential scheme to significantly improve rail connectivity between the South Midlands, West Midlands, the Thames Valley, London, South Wales and the South West
The railway line that currently stops at Stratford upon Avon would extend south by some 6 miles to Long Marston where it would connect with a railway line from the Cotswold main line between Worcester, Oxford and London Paddington. The line used to exist until it was disused and lifted in 1976. The route remains intact and protected by Stratford on Avon District Core Strategy Plan for the purpose of potential reopening.
Visitors and the Local Economy
The national average for visitors by rail to other UK visitor destinations comparable with Stratford upon Avon is 12%. At Stratford upon Avon, despite annual rail passenger journeys exceed 1 million only 6% of visitors come by rail, that’s half the comparable national average.
For Stratford upon Avon to attract more visitors and reach the 12% average, which it could easily do, much better train services with significantly greater connectivity are needed. Reaching the national average for visitors by rail would mean over 400,000 additional visitors to Stratford upon Avon and South Warwickshire. Using values in the latest Tourist Impact Assessment from Stratford on Avon District Council, an extra 400,000 visitors notionally amount to over £20 million additional annual income for the local economy. This would provide significant support particularly towards the diverse and unique range of town centre businesses.
A reopened railway could provide the ability to operate orbital train services in both directions between Birmingham-Stratford-Evesham-Worcester-Birmingham providing connections for South Wales and South West at the new Worcestershire Parkway.
The reopened line would provide the ability to operate direct train services with a 12 mile shorter route between Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds, Oxford, Reading, Heathrow Airport and London Paddington
Housing, Population Growth and Environment
The scale of proposed housing development between 2018 and 2030 along the existing railway line between Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon, and in the area to the south and west of Stratford upon Avon towards Worcester, exceeds 30,000 new homes with an associated population growth of 69,000. Some of this growth is due to the absorption of increased allocations for new housing being placed on shire districts to assist Birmingham and the West Midlands conurbation.
Much of the employment arising from these proposed developments in this part of the South Midlands is likely to be derived from Birmingham and the West Midlands (the A435 and A46 corridors) and consequently there is a need to significantly improve not just train service frequency but greater connectivity through adequate railway infrastructure enabling people to make modal shift from car to train.
The increasing need to reduce harmful emissions caused by vehicular traffic is uppermost in major towns and cities where the greatest concentration of motor vehicles is situated. Birmingham has recognised the issue of emissions and will need to invest significantly in better public transport, not just in its immediate vicinity but much further to take in home to work commuting journeys.
The Garden Village at Long Marston, together with other significant levels of new development at Long Marston and closely adjacent in North Gloucestershire and East Worcestershire, determine that a Long Marston Parkway rail station could be viable on any reopened line. This would facilitate a train service between Long Marston and Birmingham City Centre taking around just 45/50 minutes.
SLPG have objected to the proposed Garden Village and South Western Relief Road plans that have been submitted to the Local Planning Authority (Stratford on Avon District Council) because the proposals do not contain or mirror any of the elements related to sustainable transport infrastructure and services that were included in the bid made to HM Government to obtain Garden Village status. In addition, we have asked the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call the planning applications in.
The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group (SLPG) carried out two online surveys in Spring 2018. One of the questions that was asked concerned the Stratford-Honeybourne reopening scheme. The question in the survey sought to ascertain the level of support for this scheme to be examined and investigated further.
Over 800 rail users and over 80 town centre businesses from Stratford upon Avon took part with an overwhelming 94% saying that they want an Economic Impact Assessment carried out by the local authorities and stakeholders as soon as possible to properly and objectively determine the viability and feasibility of the scheme.
The first stage in progressing this scheme is to evaluate if an economic case exists that would support progressing to a full business case and proposal to reopen the railway line. In Scotland this is referred to as the ‘pre-appraisal’ work and it has led to a number of successful schemes being identified, progressed and delivered. The mechanism that provides the economic information is called an Economic Impact Study (EIS). The cost of this work is likely to be between £20k to £40k and shared among several local authorities and stakeholders we believe that such a study, given the overwhelming support for it, would not cost each stakeholder more than £7k each.
SLPG are no longer campaigning for the outright reopening of the Stratford-Honeybourne railway line but neither do we accept the proposal being dismissed or continually relegated to the bottom of priorities with no supporting evidence.
SLPG’s online surveys carried out earlier this year demonstrate there is overwhelming support from both the general public and Stratford upon Avon town centre businesses for a full Economic Impact Study to be carried out to determine the feasibility of reopening the railway. Consequently, SLPG continues to pursue local authorities, key stakeholders, politicians and any other relevant organisation to get an independent and comprehensive EIS completed into the reopening proposal. Only then can the scheme be determined as being viable or not.
There is much more information available at a site that we have dedicated to deal with the potential to reopen the railway between Stratford upon Avon and Honeybourne this can be accessed by going to: www.suawoox.com