Thirty-three railway lines and 72 stations should be reopened as part of a massive £6.3bn redevelopment programme, according to lobbying group Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT).
It has urged the Department for Transport to restore 552km of rail lines in the UK, including 267km of passenger routes and 284km of freight only routes.
The CfBT estimates the total cost of the programme would be between £4.76bn and £6.39bn in its report The case for expanding the rail network. It also concludes that such a wide ranging programme could add £245M in revenue income to the economy every year.
Of the 72 stations 13 are in the West Midlands and 13 in the North East. Wales and Scotland would both benefit from five new stations under the plan.
CfBT chief executive Darren Shirley said that the programme would open the rail network to those in deprived areas.
“Expanding the railways would transform the opportunities for people living in some of the most deprived areas of the country, giving them greater access to employment and services and providing a much needed boost to local economies.”
The Beeching Report in the 1960s led to the closure of 2,363 stations and 8,000km of track, in the face of growing competition from road vehicles and falling rail subsidies. Some of the closed routes are among those the CfBT wants reopened.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT) supported the report. Its general secretary Mick Cash argued that the programme would pay for itself over time.
“For years politicians have been talking up the benefits of reopening lines but few reach construction due to a lack of a national approach and public investment,” he said. “There is an overwhelming case for a government backed national programme of public rail reopenings to help meet the huge economic, environmental and social challenges facing the UK. These reopenings will ultimately pay for themselves via the benefits they generate for society.”
The CfBT estimates that an additional 20M passengers a year could use the rail network if the proposals are fully adopted.
The programme claims the reopening programme would also create or safeguard up to 6,500 jobs in construction and engineering and 1,650 new railway jobs.
Lines and stations identified as a ‘priority’:
- March to Wisbech, Cambridgeshire - reopening this line would link the town of Wisbech to employment, education and training and also serve the proposed 12,000 home Wisbech Garden Town
- Totton to Hythe to Fawley, Hampshire - this freight-only line could be converted to offer passenger services to Southampton, reducing air pollution and relieving pressure on congested roads next to the New Forest National Park
- Ashington, Blyth and Tyne, Northumberland - this line would significantly improve connectivity for several large towns and allow passengers to access the Tyne & Wear Metro.
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