Concern over rail link for Ironbridge Power Station project
Concerned residents have been told plans to keep more than a million tonnes of gravel and sand for the Ironbridge Power Station development off the roads depend on Network Rail.
Proposals to build what will effectively be a new settlement at the former Buildwas Power Station outside Ironbridge were lodged with both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Council last month – although it will be the Shropshire authority that takes the final decision.
At a public meeting held at Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge Community Centre on Monday night, residents voiced a number of concerns about the proposals, including the methods of transporting 1.9 million tonnes of gravel and sand required for the project.
Harworth, the developer behind the project, has suggested that the rail line into the old power station site - that goes over the Grade II listed Albert Edward Bridge - can be reopened to carry minerals for the site, and to take demolition material away.
But speaking at the meeting, Telford & Wrekin Councillor Carolyn Healy and the authority's planning officer Val Hulme, said that the proposal was still up in the air because Network Rail needs to approve the plan.
- Power station site railway ‘would make Ironbridge Gorge not just for tourism’
- No to McDonald's: Only 'high quality and appropriate' uses allowed at Ironbridge Power Station development
- Further plans submitted for Ironbridge power station site
At the heart of the issue is whether the listed bridge can cope with heavy freight, and if it needs to be upgraded to do so. The issue of works to the bridge would also be complicated by its listing.
Asked about whether the matter had been resolved, Councillor Healy told the meeting: "We keep being told that discussions are ongoing."
Ms Hulme said: "Network Rail are trying to make sure that it is fit for purpose for what Harworth want to do.
"We feel it is essential and are pushing Network Rail for this, but it is a listed structure and there are issues about bringing that into purpose."
She told the meeting that they were awaiting information from Network Rail on what would need to be done for the scheme to work.
"Only in January Network Rail confirmed what they are thinking of doing but they have not said about what needs to happen to those structures," she added.
Currently the plan for the project is to deliver 1.5 million tonnes of the gravel and sand required by rail.
The rest would be delivered by road.
The suggestion of reopening the railway on a commercial basis has also been a popular proposal the plans.
Speaking at the meeting, residents said the focus should be on creating a commuter rail link and not on a heritage railway.
Carol Goodfellow from Ironbridge said: "A commuter line has to be the priority over a heritage line because the is one the big pluses from the plans."
A Network Rail spokesman said: “Because the Albert Edward bridge is historically important and Grade-II listed, any structural strengthening work needed for trains to cross must be sympathetic.
"Network Rail is developing different designs with contractors and working closely with local planners so freight can be safely carried over the River Severn at this location as part of the redevelopment of the former Ironbridge power station.”