A ‘MAJOR breakthrough’ has been made in the campaign to reopen a train station in Middlewich.

In a new report by the Railway Consultancy Ltd, a business case has been identified to upgrade the Sandbach to Northwich line for passengers.

Middlewich is the largest town in Cheshire without a railway station and the report estimates that 670 people a day would travel to or from the town if it had a platform.

Currently, more than 50 per cent of the working population of Middlewich commute out of the town by car.

Dave Roberts, chairman of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign, said: “If you draw a circle of 800 metres round a station, that’s the distance people are willing to go for a train.

“If you draw that circle in Middlewich, it’s a vast number of passengers.”

It is anticipated that it will cost £700,000 to create a new station in Middlewich, which is likely to be built opposite the old station, off Holmes Chapel Road.

A further £200,000 will then be needed to improve the track and rebuild the island platform in Northwich.

That means the initial costs to make the project a reality could amount to less than £1million.

“I’m delighted,” added Mr Roberts, 56.

“Obviously we thought there was a business case as we’ve been campaigning all this time so it’s nice to see this in writing.

“This allows us to go to Cheshire East and Cheshire West councils and put pressure on them to include this scheme in their transport plans. We want this accepted as policy.

“Historically, railway campaigns take 25 years. You have to keep plugging and plugging away but this is a major breakthrough.

“It’s no longer a question of: ‘Will it work?’ I’ve had umpteen people telling me I am wasting my time but the figures are now there to prove it.”

The report was commissioned by Middlewich Railway Steering Group, a partnership of local authorities, Cheshire and Warrington Economic Alliance and rail interest groups.

Vernon Perkins, chairman of the steering group, said: “We asked the consultants to investigate different options.

“The option which provides a service from Northwich to Crewe via Middlewich far exceeded our expectations, providing a benefit/cost ratio which is substantially higher than the industry threshold required to take the project further.”

Clr David Brickhill, Cheshire East Council’s portfolio holder for environmental services, says the next step is to liase with Network Rail and Northern Trains to set out costs and a timescale.

The report is likely to be welcomed by Middlewich residents who often complain about the town’s bus service and are angry about the incoming parking charges.

Mr Roberts, 56, added: “Middlewich to Crewe on a bus takes you nearly an hour – I can get a train from Sandbach to Crewe in eight minutes.”

If the plans go ahead, Middlewich passengers will be able to catch a direct train to Crewe, where you can then travel to almost anywhere in the country.

Middlewich’s station was closed nearly 50 years ago on the last day of 1959. Signalman David Miles campaigned for it to reopen in the 60s and Clr Dorothy Roberts campaigned in the 70s.

Middlewich Railway Steering Group and Middlewich Rail Link Campaign picked up the fight in 1992.