Reopening of old Shropshire railway remains on right track
The first step to reopening a stretch of train line that has been closed for years took place with the blessing of a transport minister.
Interest was officially registered in getting government money to reopen the track between the mainline at Gobowen, near Oswestry and the nearby, internationally renowned Orthopaedic Hospital, in Westminster, earlier this week.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris welcomed the bid and pledged to use part of a funding pot set up by the Prime Minister to get lines axed by Dr Beeching, during the 1960s, back up-and-running again.
The Oswestry to Gobowen line fell victim to what became known as Beeching Cuts in November, 1966.
It brought to an end Oswestry’s role as an important railway engineering hub for the country.
Cambrian Railways Trust has reopened short sections of the line at Oswestry and at Llynclys.
The trust has always had a long-term ambition to see trains running along the entire Oswestry to Gobowen line once more.
Now the Beeching Line funding has given the trust a chance to get some of that route open earlier than first expected.
The short stretch from Gobowen to the Park Hall Halt – once used by soldiers to reach the army camp – would give easy access to the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital.
Patients, visitors and staff currently have to use private transport, taxis or infrequent buses to get to the hospital.
North Shropshire MP, Owen Paterson, was joined by Welsh border MPs, Craig Williams and Simon Baynes, in a meeting with Mr Heaton-Harris.
Mr Paterson said: “It was a very productive meeting with Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris to approve the registration of the bid for a rail service linking Oswestry to national rail via Gobowen from the Beeching Reversal Fund.
“I look forward to working with him closely on full bid.”
“Cambrian Heritage Railways is convinced that a community tram-train could be run on the existing rails at a relatively low cost, owing to the existing infrastructure.”
Mr Patterson said that barring a very small section where only the track bed remained, all the tracks, aggregate, sleepers and bridges were in situ and could be put into service quickly.
“Many of the projects to be considered under the scheme will be to rebuild long-demolished routes from scratch,” he said.
“The Oswestry-Gobowen infrastructure is very largely in place and its re-opening with a tram-train sould be a comparatively straightforward, easy win.”
The MP said other improvements on the Shrewsbury to Chester line made reopening the track even more viable. “From 2020 Gobowen station will have a direct service to London so a local link to Oswestry would be of enormous benefit to local residents,” he said.
Mr Paterson said all three MPs attending the meeting were also able to discuss cross border road transport with the minister.
“We discussed the A5/A483 in some detail,” he added.
“I told the minister of yet another appalling crash on the road just this weekend.”
Boris Johnson gave a pledge in the Welsh Conservatives election manifesto that the government would invest in road links along the English/Welsh border, including the Pant/Llanymynech bypass.
Last month, the three MPs and Montgomery Welsh Assembly Member, Russell George, met with Welsh Transport minister, Ken Skates, to press for Welsh extra funding for cross border strategic road and rail routes.