Restoring Your Railway update

Thursday 23rd June 2022

Last Saturday Minister of State for Transport Wendy Morton announced “a further £15 million in funding to develop nine Restoring Your Railway schemes across England to reopen disused railway lines, services and stations, including some that were axed in the 1950s and 60s – with one station taken out of use as far back as 1930, Haxby Station on the York to Scarborough Line”.

The news presumably looked good in Number 10’s ‘media announcement grid’ being nicely timed for last Sunday’s Government supporting newspapers which were bound to be going overboard with attacks on the RMT as this week’s rail strikes drew closer.

But the announcement is hardly revolutionary as most of the nine schemes receiving funding were announced by Secretary of State Grant Shapps during Lockdown One in late May 2020 in a vain attempt to divert attention away from the infamous Cummings’ Bank Holiday press conference about eyesight tests in Barnard Castle.

I blogged back then about those first ten successful schemes to the DfT’s “Ideas Fund” giving them a few thousand pounds each enabling work to proceed to develop “Strategic Outline Business Cases”.

Now the DfT has provided a summary update not only of the nine schemes highlighted in Saturday’s news release but each of the 141 unique bids it’s received across the three application rounds, including those that have been unsuccessful.

This fascinating update shows those still on the platform as well as those which have hit the buffers. It can be found by clicking on this link.

It shows, for example, of the first original ten successful “Ideas” in May 2020 four have since been dropped being …..

  • reinstatement of branch lines on the Isle of Wight
  • reinstatement of passing loop between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction (Abbey Line)
  • passenger services on the Bury-Heywood-Rochdale lines
  • regular passenger services on the Clitheroe to Hellifield railway line

… although it doesn’t mean all is lost as the promoters may be able to secure funding to progress the projects from other sources, for example, Hertfordshire County Council have aspirations to transform the Abbey Line as part of a Countywide ‘metro’ style network. Others, like reinstating branch lines on the Isle of Wight were always a hopeless fantasy and frankly should never have attracted funding from the “Ideas Fund” to progress any form of business case at all.

The nine schemes announced on Saturday sharing that further £15 million and meaning they’re still potentially going places are:

Of these nine, four were part of the original ten schemes announced in May 2020: the Barrow Hill and Ivanhoe Lines as well as Meir and Devizes Stations ….. while the Aldridge/Walsall line upgrade was already in the pipeline as an “Advanced Proposal”, Haxby was a “New Stations Fund” success, Fleetwood was from a “Pre-Ideas Fund” and Ferryhill and Mid Cornwall Metro were from the second round of “Ideas Fund” announced at the end of 2020 which I blogged about that December. (You get the idea there’s no shortage of “Funds” around when it comes to “Restoring Your Railways” – which are all good for generating news headlines of course.)

The two ideas in the May 2020 original ten not yet mentioned as either being dropped or getting more funding are, it seems, still in the pipeline. They’re reopening Wellington and Cullompton stations and reinstating passenger services on the Totton-Fawley (Waterside) line. Both are “progressing past the Strategic Outline Business Case” so expect more announcements over a tricky news agenda weekend in future months.

Looking at the state of play in the DfT’s update document outlining the winners and losers throws up a few surprises.

For example, developing Strategic Outline Business Cases (SOBC) are: reinstating lines/passenger services between Consett-Newcastle; Gainsborough-Barton; Gaerwen-Amlwch (Anglesey); Beverley-York; Tavistock-Plymouth while Stratford-upon-Avon-Honeybourne and Alfreton-Ashfield Maid Marian Line have hit the buffers along with others which didn’t even make it through the “Ideas Fund” such as Lewes-Uckfield; a 1km link from Coastway West to the Arun Valley line, and there still seems to be no mention of the idea of restoring the Colne to Skipton line which has been the subject of vigorous local campaigning for many years. I’d have thought that stood more of a chance than some of the aforementioned ideas still developing a SOBC.

Other schemes known as “Advanced Proposals” which won’t be attracting Restoring Your Railway funding include Brentford to Southall; West London Orbital (Dudding Hill Lane) and North Cotswold.

Of course, the model of success hailed by Ministers is last November’s reopening of the Okehampton to Exeter line, but this was a bit of a cheat as trains had been running on the line for many summers thanks to Devon County Council’s funding.

All that was needed was a long overdue track and signalling upgrade. Similarly the next ribbon cutting ceremony should be ready if not next year, certainly before the next General Election and will tick all the “levelling up” boxes as it’s in the Red Wall north east heartland where the freight line between Ashington and Newcastle is being upgraded thanks to circa £200 million.

As for all the other pet schemes, the update provided by the DfT is a fascinating listing and well worth a quick read.

I can’t help thinking any of these schemes if implemented will merely add to the rail industry’s financial black hole we’ve heard so much about this week. Personally I’d rather hear a Government commitment to retain ticket offices than wasting any more funds on “reversing Beeching”. I suspect many passengers using Government run (Directly Operated Railways) Northern Rail experiencing much reduced timetables might also feel there are other priorities than reopening a station closed “as far back as 1930”.

Roger French

Blogging timetable 06:00 TThSSu

38 thoughts on “Restoring Your Railway update

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  1. Reopening a station at Haxby is a complete no brainer, and it’s depressing that we are still waiting for any firm commitment to it. The campaign has been going on for more than 20 years! When the station was closed in the 1930s, there was virtually nothing there, now it’s a huge dormitory village with a population of about 12,000. Bus links into the city are slow and road access is via the notorious York Outer Ring Road which suffers from terminal congestion. If there’s money to build stations in the middle of bloody nowhere like Worcestershire Sauce Parkway, Bow Street and Reston then it’s absurd that the 12,000 actual people who live in Haxby are still waiting.


    1. As Scarborough trains are only hourly, wouldn’t some road based solution be better? Not slowing down existing services?


  2. I’d like to see a new link built at Bradford Abbas in Dorset which would allow service on the Exeter – Waterloo line to run down into Weymouth. A whimsical suggestion, but if you look at a map, you’ll see what I mean!


    1. If I’m honest i think a more sensible solution would be to turn Yeovil Junction station into an actual junction station so that changing trains from Exeter trains to Weymouth trains is actually feasible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What is not mentioned by the DfT in these announcements is the fact that many of the schemes that have got through to the next round also have the potential to attract S106/CIL and LA funding which strengthens their case. I did read some of the CBA/SOB case notes for The Northern Route (Plymouth Tavistock) and this seemed fairly sound subject to outline planning applications for new homes being submitted, to attract some S106/CIL funds. It would be good to see the reasoning behind some of the failures, although I do agree a few were at best hair-brained! The proposed Ivanhoe line is just what was proposed in the mid 1990’s but was not taken forward then due to unknown mining subsidence issues along the current route which has many permanent speed restrictions due to these issues, if this is still the case, a full geotechnical study may well find the SOBC will be wiped out. The Mid Cornwall Metro is another case of what was proposed a number of years ago but this was to ease the traffic issues over Goss Moor – the impact of seasonal traffic congestion does have an economic impact and if this is shown as being reduced in the SOBC; this adds to the viability of the proposal as does the fact that Cornwall is a Combined Authority with a lot more clout! As for adding to the black hole of railway finances, I would have thought that ‘added social and CO2 value’ would reduce that if shown in the SBOC but I doubt it would eliminate it entirely? Other thank the Newcastle- Bedlington scheme, it is doubtful that any will be up and running by the time the Passenger Rail Contracts fall due and that is just another can or worms to consider?


  4. Yes the Okehampton was running anyhow,well actually really the Meldon line but only the preserved railway covered the last bit using,if I recall correctly,a shunter(can’t remember if it was a class 03 or 08/09?) and a former rail test vehicle for the passengers or customers as Mrs Thatcher, sorry Lady, would call them.Strangley Samford Courtney was on the Sunday only service but the new service doesn’t stop there probably because there’s nowhere to put a huge car park although they can flatten the local nature reserve for the parkway set.There was another station,Bow,with platforms too but nothing stopped there at all.


  5. The railways are subsidised to the tune of about £700 per household per year and that’s without the Covid Support

    The cost of new stations has become astronomical a lot of that being down to then m being required to be accessible. Putting a couple of lift then add in the cost of an accessible footbridge and it prices out the reopening of most stations

    Typically only about 5% of the population use rail and most of that is in London an the large cites so the economics are not good. If you take a modest size town of say a 50,000 that will not yield many passengers a year

    To drive down cost you need the two platforms accessible without lifts and footbridge which in most cases will not be possible

    Another question is should e be building stations with car parks ? Should it be a requirement that a bus service is provided that connects with the trains ?


    1. Agree with you on bus connections, but “Covid support” was something the government insisted on, and are now using it against the industry!


  6. I assume coastway west to the Arun Valley is the Arundel Chord? This would allow trains from Horsham to turn left towards Worthing and Brighton without a trip to Littlehampton and reverse thus making the alternative much more attractive on those weekends when the BML is closed. However, I thought it was a new connection rather than a restoration. It pops up from time to time but never really gets the support although it seems a good idea


  7. I think personally the best ideas for new stations are those in places that people can easily walk to – not having to use an alternative form of transport will make the train way more attractive. That is why I’d support something like the Haxby or Meir station much more than Devizes or Ferryhill. The other thing to be considered is what trains would stop there, and whether those services have the timings currently to add in another stop without too much disruption to the current schedule.


    1. Try telling that to Adrian Shooter and the parkway set!Any station you want as long as it’s for cars not people!


    2. I wonder how long the token bus link from Devizes Parkway to Devizes would last if this station goes ahead? Probably as long as the temporary requirement in the planning permission.

      Parkways tend to benefit out commuting to elsewhere and don’t really benefit the nearby town they’re named for.

      Stations should be located for maximum access on foot, bike, e-scooter, AND of course bus which should connect with trains, and have up to date information for arriving passengers including a map.


    3. As an ex. Iow resident who returns regularly for extended holidays I despair with the way governments dangle little carrots of hope in front of voters then whisk them away in what seems to be an attempt at showing how powerful they are. The last 2 summer holidays brought it home to me just how over crowded is the IoW. Traffic levels made it virtually impossible to visit the main towns and even cross country routes through Arreton and around the Hare & Hounds were grid-locked. A rail service reinstated to Newport would relieve some of that pressure. Sadly some concentrate on why the railways failed in the past instead of looking at the way the world is going. Rail is the future of transport especially when fossil fuel use and climate change is considered. Take a look at just how rail investment has transformed public transport in Mallorca. A decrepid system has been transformed into a modern metro cum island wide transport system. For goodness sake have some vision, citizens, and stop dwelling on past failures.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A lot of the projects at SOBC appear to have just not moved fast enough to get feedback from the DfT.

    Skipton-Colne not being mentioned is not a surprise. They received an injection of funding for further work about a year before RYR was announced. I don’t think the business case for this line is that good particularly when a railway link between Burnley and Leeds already exists.


    1. The SOBC on the Colne to Skipton rail line has Just been updated and with very positive results for passenger demand, the one for freight is still to come in the near future.

      According to Civil Servants within the DfT it’s now at the Top of the list outside of HS2, and other more expensive rail projects.

      Further news on SELRAP’s rail project will come in due course.


  9. In re Haxby . . . let’s look a little closer (and I admit my research is all on line!!) . . .

    The rebuilt railway station would be on the (eastern) edge of the development, so would require either a large car park or some form of shuttle bus; much of the housing is around 1 mile from the station site.

    Whilst I agree that traffic congestion doesn’t make for a fast journey . . . 5 miles in around 20 minutes is about 15 MPH, which isn’t good . . . some decently enforced priority measures would help somewhat; Wiggington Road looks better than Haxby Road.

    However, with new rail stations coming in at well over £20m (Soham with one platform / Reston with two platforms) . . . what could that buy?? Let’s assume that 1 bus and 1.5 drivers will cost around £100K pa {one single deck bus new @ £170K depreciated over 15 years, so £11.5K pa; 1.5 drivers @ £35K per driver pa, so £53.5K in total; fuel estimated at £35K pa . . . probably not unreasonable now}.
    £20m would therefore buy one bus and associated costs for . . . 200 years. I freely admit that these are “fag-packet” figures . . .

    Now let’s assume a high quality express bus service . . . looping around Haxby and then running as fast as possible into York . . . remember it’s around 5 miles . . . let’s further assume that we’d use 5 buses on a service that runs every 12 minutes. £100K x 5 buses is £500K pa . . . so for your £20m budget, you’d run this service for around 40 years.

    And that’s without ANY passenger fares!! If we now assume that passenger fares would “only” cover 50% of costs (unlikely to be that low) . . . so we’ve now run the bus service for 80 years for £20m support.

    Any train service would only provide 1 TPH to one side of Haxby . . . my suggestion would provide 5 times as many services each hour, closer to the housing, and direct to the City Centre as well. It’s almost another Cambridge Busway, really . . .

    I’m not against new railway stations per se . . . but IF Haxby Station gets the go-ahead . . . it’ll be 5 years away. A bus service could be in operation within 6 months . . .


    1. Given the small population of Haxby and its proximity to York I think its a non starter. There is also the impact it would have on slowing down the mainline services

      Haxby appears to be serviced by bus service 13 which takes about 30 minutes to York station
      There is also a service 14 which is probably a council contract services as it only runs in the evenings. Distance wise it is about 4.7 miles

      Typically about 5% of the population use rail and that’s heavily biased to London and the large cities. For Haxby I would reckon no more than 2% which will be no where near enough to be viable

      The requirement to make stations accessible can also adds hugely to the costs

      An accessible footbridge and lift alone costs a small fortune

      One would struggle to make a business case for it at all

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The Malden to Witham is an interesting one. It could potentially lead to the reopening of the line to Stanstead Airport
    How much of the old track bed is still there who knows. Unfortunately when all the old lines were closed the track beds were not protected so often a lot of housing etc has been build over them

    There could then be trains from Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester direct to Stanstead


  11. Bob . . . the main service between Haxby and York is Route 1 by First York every 15 minutes; journey time to the centre about 25 minutes. Route 13 is every 30 minutes by Connexions Buses. 6 BPH currently seems quite good for a community of around 12,000 people.

    Petras409 . . . I quite agree . . . 30 minutes research on Haxby and it was an obvious candidate for a quality bus service.
    If I had to come up with a rule of thumb . . . I’d say a 30 minute bus journey is about the maximum that new passengers might tolerate; above that and a train would probably be better. If Haxby station had been in the middle of the housing, such that the maximum walk was 8-10 minutes, that might have altered my conclusion.

    However . . . on a rail line with an existing 30 minute frequency or better and 10+ miles from the town/city . . . the train would win most times. Sometimes, planners just don’t consider ALL the options . . .


  12. Bob mentions reopening Braintree to Stanstead Airport in the context of Maldon to Witham. Unfortunately the powers that be missed a big opportunity when the new A120 dual carriageway was built between Braintree and Stansted. The rail line could have easily been reinstated parallel to the A120 but I can’t see it happening now.


    1. Yep, we should… everything becomes easy once we leave other people’s feelings and practical constraints out of consideration. Of course the Internet helps, we can just create our own little world. Drawing lines on a map is easy, like deciding what other people want, or need.

      It’s why transport schemes have always been based on what we can get away with, not what we ought to do. So by passes multiply in the countryside, not so much where the real congestion is. Build first, sort out the traffic later, if at all. There’s no money in it.

      Stansted Airport was always (and still is) locally controversial. So upsetting the locals even more is good policy. Yeah, right.

      Even other schemes, like Cambridge North and Beaulieu, which offer clear operational benefits to the existing network, take over 20 years to come to fruition because of the practical complexity, and in the case of the latter, are still on a knife-edge.

      Leave the magic wand to Harry Potter.


  13. It would offer a lot of benefit though by connecting that part of Essex and Suffolk to Stansted

    The distance appears to be only about 15 miles or so as the crow fly’s with stations possibly at Dunmow an Rayne

    It could be built as single track initially with a passing loop. That would allow for a 30 minute service

    Leave out the new stations as if built they would need to be accessible adding about £5M to costs for that alone

    Distance is about 15 miles. Lets say £10M to £15M a mile so £150M to £320M

    A modest cost considering the huge benefits , Looking around it appears a lo o the track bed still exists and now forms part of the Flich Way if thats correct it makes it a lot more viable


  14. I would much rather see booking offices kept open than spend money on fancy projects and very expensive new halts and stations..There so many complicated journeys. Sweden is losing all ticket offices and letting people use a grocer/confectionary chain on each station concourse, which works for single journeys.. Except for the problem of the different rail companies if you miss a train. Result- in Stockholm Central roving staff have to be employed now to help tourists who look lost. You could never plan a circular journey without the European Rail Timetable, the relevant country pages of which I carry with me.


    1. Assuming that you can get the European timetable as since Thomas Cook stopped their red European one and blue International one it’s been patchy getting the European one as new publishers come and go .I don’t think that anyone has attempted the Blue International one since Cooks?I use to love looking at the both the Red and Blue Thomas Cook timetables!


      1. The ERT is still published by the Editor who dates from Thomas Cook days. The non European countries feature at the back of the red book in certain issues. They have their own website.


    2. Why would you keep ticket offices open just to sell a handful of tickets a day ?

      It might be a nice to have but can the cost be justified. Spend £500 a day at least on staff costs and sell a few hundred pound of tickets


  15. Roger said: “You get the idea there’s no shortage of “Funds” around when it comes to “Restoring Your Railways” ”

    The problem is that it’s all make-believe money that gets announced again and again and again but almost never actually gets paid out. It’s all smoke and mirrors, used to provide ‘good news’ media releases whenever the government feels under a bit of pressure and wants to distract people.

    It’s anyone’s guess if we’ll ever see any of these proposals actually reach fruition.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am not sure the Haverhill one will go anywhere. There has been a lot of pressure to reopen that section of the old line to Sudbury and Colchester

    Not sure the economics of it will line up though. There is no a lot between Haverhill and Cambridge. Peak hour traffic should be ok but off peak and weekends it will probably not attract much use

    I think there are plans to extend the Sudbury to Marks Tey service to Colchester. The first and last train already go there as they are stabled in Colchester

    The current issue with extending the full service to Colchester Town is that one of the car parks at Marks Tey required people to cross the Sudbury branch line to get to the station

    There is a bus service to Cambridge . It will not be fast but as most passengers off peak would be concessionary pass holders. I suspect the preference would be free travel on the bus


  17. The Herts Essex rapid Transport System is jut at present a vague aspiration. What type of vehicles it will use and even where it will go is very vague

    There seem to have been some kind of high level study of the benefits the line might bring but no detailed study and no real costing of building it

    I would imagine constructing a light railway will be very difficult. They are remnant’s of old lines such as Hertford to Hatfield and the Abbey line

    The only similar link that exists at present i the Greenline 724 and that does not attract much traffic. Most East West traffic will be by car

    Link to HCC Web site data


  18. Would any of the new lines be more suited to guided busways. Surely a fraction of the price for stations, signals, operating. And can run on roads for the last mile into the town centre when the old tracks have been built over.


  19. ABFLY, the line’s user group are disappointed with the Abbey line decision which was cheap compared to other schemes and we’ve potentially lost the chance of transforming the line for a generation. A concern is that the alternative will not be rail and the current unattractive situation will just go on. The current infrastructure is largely only single track and is not wide enough for a Busway, which even if feasible, would require a long-term closure of the line. Light rail has been proposed before but floundered on costs.


  20. The challenge I think is to find a cost effective way to reopen these minor lines. Rail probably prices itself out due to the very high costs and likely low passenger numbers

    The Cambridge Busway cost a £181M so a cost lower than even that is needed

    Typically on these old lines the loading gauge was about 9ft and with a maximum height of about 12ft

    A lower cost might be laser guidance or a central guidance rail

    If you take the Haverhill to Cambridge line they are trying to get re opened the distance is about 23 mile with nothing much in-between Haverhill and Cambridge and if you go west of Haverhill you have the existing line from Cambridge to London

    Maybe a single track busway with a passing loop halfway along would work and keep costs down

    West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock and two Cambridgeshire MPs, Anthony Browne and Lucy Frazer, co-signed letters asking the Combined Authority to fund a feasibility study into a railway line to link the destinations.

    The initial bid to reconnect Haverhill to the national rail network was made in 2021, but funding was not granted due to limited availability.


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