Hopes raised that Oswestry rail line 'could reopen within three years'

A mothballed railway line through Oswestry and Gobowen could open within three years if it is proved to be viable, the rail minister said.

Oswestry railway station. Photo: Google
Oswestry railway station. Photo: Google

Chris Heaton-Harris met with officials from Cambrian Heritage Railways, which is behind the bid, during a visit to Oswestry.

The group was given £50,000 to commission a feasibility study in the Budget last month.

Mr Heaton-Harris said he had been very impressed with the station at Oswestry, and said that if the plan proved to be realistic, work could begin very quickly.

He said the realistic best-case scenario would be that trains would be running on the line by 2024.

The route is being considered as part of the Government's Restoring Your Railways programme. If the bid for funding is successful, the line would be opened in two phases, with services initially running from Gobowen to the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, before later being extended to Oswestry.

Mr Heaton-Harris, who was in Shropshire to promote Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst, the Conservative candidate in next month's North Shropshire by-election, said the first new rail link in the scheme had opened on Saturday.

The line from Exeter to Okehampton in Devon, which reopened last weekend, took just 18 months to get up and running.

Mr Heaton-Harris said it would take a little longer between Gobowen and Oswestry, but was impressed by what he saw.

"We had a not dissimilar situation with the line down in Okehampton, where like here the line was in pretty good condition, and that whole process took 18 months."

He added that any rail link would have to meet the same stringent standards, and that there could be no short cuts, saying: "You can't have a railway on the cheap, it has to meet the same high standards as any other railway.

Cambrian Heritage Railways secured a 50-year lease on the line from Shropshire Council in 2014, and ran its first steam service from Oswestry later that year.

The rail minister said the fact that the group had been able to run steam services on the line showed that it would not need much work.

"The station here at Oswestry is much bigger than I was expecting, and it has been kept in excellent condition," he said.

"The track is obviously in good order as it has been running services already, so I wouldn't imagine it would need too much work to bring this line back into use."

Mr Heaton-Harris added that there might be an update on proposals to electrify the Shrewsbury-Wolverhampton rail line in the new year.

At the moment the scheme, which would mean it would make it easier to run direct services from Shrewsbury to London, is on a list of projects as part of the Government's decarbonisation strategy.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News