'Time is right' to reopen Newport railway line as work continues on innovation park
Work is continuing on the high-tech Newport Innovation Park under the lockdown.
The 'Ni-Park' by the A518 on the outskirts of Newport is set to create hundreds of new jobs for people in the area by providing a base for agri-tech businesses.
Eric Carter, a town and borough councillor who is also president of the Newport Regeneration Partnership, said that with the economic development in the area it is the ideal opportunity for the disused railway line between Newport and Stafford to be reinstated.
The railway from Newport to Stafford via Gnosall is no longer used but a footpath popular with runners and cyclists now runs alongside it.
Councillor Carter said that the new park would support the reopening of the line, for "rail, tram, whatever it might be", and a station in Newport.
"This is the right time to be talking about it." He said that once it is safe to do so, he plans to petition Newport residents on the subject.
Construction work on the Ni-Park itself began back in January and is continuing during the coronavirus lockdown. Telford & Wrekin Council said that the project is "set to provide a significant economic boost to Newport and the local area".
Councillor Carter welcomed the ongoing work as a sign of something for Newport to look forward to in uncertain times, and said the park should be complete in about a year.
"We are very pleased that it is now taking place," he said. "There is a Ni-Park group which has had two or three meetings.
"What we will be doing is working with [Telford & Wrekin Council, which has provided funding for the project] to make sure that plans we put in place are kept to.
"It is a high quality agri-tech park, not a retail park."
He said that while Newport has seen hundreds of new houses built in recent years, "we have not got the jobs to back it up".
"That will change. People won't have to get in their cars and drive to Telford or Wolverhampton or Birmingham to work, we want people to have jobs on their doorsteps.
"It creates more money coming into the area locally."
Works at Ni-Park are being delivered by infrastructure group Balfour Beatty.
It is a key element in the Newport Innovation and Enterprise Package, which secured £6.36m funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership under the Local Growth Fund, matched by investment from Telford & Wrekin Council.
Harper Adams University near Newport is also linked to the project through its own agri-engineering centre for innovation.