Frustration as Middlewich rail link plans hampered by massive study costs

First published in News by , Entertainment Editor

MIDDLEWICH’S MP has challenged the Minister for Transport on why a huge financial obstacle is hampering plans to reopen the town’s train station.

It could cost up to £500,000 for Network Rail to carry out a feasibility study to upgrade the Sandbach to Northwich line for passengers.

This is despite a business case three years ago which identified 670 people who would use Middlewich’s platform each day if it was reopened.

Fiona Bruce MP has written to the Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers MP asking her to justify why it would cost such an enormous sum simply for progress to be made.

Dave Roberts, chairman of Middlewich Rail Link Campaign (MLRC), said: “Fiona Bruce knows what we have known all along.

“That the reopening of this line will not only be good for the town of Middlewich but for the whole north west region.

“She has been very helpful in promoting our new petition which will give her vital ammunition when she raises the issue in Parliament.”

He claims the feasibility study costs a third of the entire £1.5million needed to reopen Middlewich station and upgrade the line.

Dave, named a Local Hero by former mayor Sonya Edwards, added: “This year the campaign celebrates 20 years of existence and the general feeling is one of frustration.

“Having proved our point that a new Crewe-Manchester passenger service via Sandbach, Northwich and Middlewich is a viable and worthwhile proposition we appear to be still some distance from our goal.

“We have come up against the enormous stumbling block of Network Rail which is demanding enormous amounts of money to even look at the proposals.

“Cheshire East Council is reluctant to spend money to progress the plans with no guarantee that the scheme will eventually go ahead.

“We have strong allies, both councillors and officials, and we know they are doing their best to ensure that this vitally important scheme goes ahead.”

Among those are representatives from Moorland and City Railways in Staffordshire who have been attending MRLC’s meetings.

Dave, 59, of Whitley Close, said: “I know the people of Middlewich want to see the restoration of their railway service after all these years and I share their frustration at the long delay in achieving it.

“However, we have an extremely good case and I am sure that, with help, a new train service and station for Middlewich will eventually happen.”

Keith Lumley, spokesman for Network Rail, said Middlewich Rail Link Campaign group was quoting the most expensive figure in a range of options presented to Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“We have never given the campaign group a figure,” he said.

“We have given a number of figures to the two councils which range from £35,000 to £500,000 so the group has obviously gone with the top end figure.

“Normally the fee for a feasibility study is about five or six per cent of the total scheme.

“The £1.5million is very much an estimate on their part as we haven’t conducted a study at all into what needs to be done to convert that line for passenger services.

“Effectively what the group needs to do is convince the Department of Transport that this is the right thing to do.”

- The next meeting of MRLC is at 8pm on July 31 at The Boar's Head in Kinderton Street

- Signatures are currently being sought for a petition that Fiona Bruce MP will present to the speaker of the House of Commons in mid July. Campaigners currently have about 800 and are hoping to get at least 2,500.

To sign the petition, visit the library, the council offices, the Boar’s Head or call Clr Mike Parsons on 834942.

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