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Gloucestershire Business News

SPECIAL REPORT: Station reopening gathers speed

A 20-year campaign to restore an £18m Gloucestershire railway link to Bristol appears to be building a fresh head of steam in the approach to the next election – and Shire Hall faces increasing pressure to embed the project in its Local Transport Plan.

The campaign for Stroudwater Station, which would effectively see the cobwebs blown off Stonehouse's direct link south to Bristol after the node was shut down by the Beeching cuts in 1965, is gaining new momentum with the government now saying a potential green light is due before the end of 2023.

Currently, commuters and travellers from the Stroud area have to either drive to Cam and Dursley rail station or book a train from Stroud via Gloucester or Swindon, the Bristol journey taking 90 minutes. Restoring the north-south direct link would slice that time by an estimated 50%. For car users, current commute times from Stroud via the M5 take around 40 minutes.

Speaking on BBC Radio Gloucestershire about the campaign which began in 2017, Mayor of Stonehouse Carol Kambites said the campaign, having secured money for a strategic outline case, is now lodged with the government's Restoring your Railway fund, which has a £500m budget for supporting 45 schemes nationally.

Ms Kambites said: "We are waiting to see whether we can go on to the next stage, for the [full] outline business case and we have full support of Stroud District Council."

Campaigners recognise that the road to approval is long and that success depends on the bid passing the goverment's threshold, but BBC political reporter Edward Rowe said he had been told by the Department for Transport (DoT) that announcement on the bid's success or failure would come "later this year".

He said: "Even if it jumps through all the hoops, it is still a long way away and will cost £18m," but added that the project was now being met by a hugely positive cross-political level of support.

He added: "Green-led SDC says it will contibute to a huge reduction in carbon emissions making journeys quicker and easier."

Labour's prospective candidate for Stroud and Dursley GP, Dr Simon Opher, also told the BBC: "There is a climate emergency and we need to get people out of cars, while there are also thousands of houses being built just to the left of where [the station stands] and there is a new football stadium coming. This is ideally sited."

Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie told the BBC there had been a 20-year campaign to make the reopening happen and that as far as she was aware, she is "the first MP to get government backing with financial support". She added that she is chasing the DoT and thanked the efforts of Stonehouse Town Council and local people.

As well as Stroud District Council, nine surrounding parish and town councils have also thrown their weight behind the idea.

Meanwhile Adrian Oldman, of the Stroudwater Station campaign, said Shire Hall's commitment to the scheme is crucial.

Mr Oldman said: "Local residents now need the county council to throw their weight behind the scheme, to make it a reality, and commit to embed it in the Local Transport Plan.

"Stroudwater isn't just about the undoubted convenience of being able to hop on a train to Bristol and not having to endure the journey down the M5. It's also about more than just contributing to regional economic development by making it easy to travel in and out of Stonehouse for work and study, shopping and leisure.

"It's about the bigger picture of helping the district achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 by reducing pollution and carbon emissions by getting residents out of their cars.

"Now is the time for our County Council to listen to and acknowledge the feelings of local people on this important matter."

● In a recent open letter, Ecotricity Founder Dale Vince, who helped Stonehouse Town Council with financial support for its bid, told Gloucestershire County Council: "As well as benefitting the 55,000 residents of the Stroud Valleys, the reopening would, if combined with a shuttle bus service, privide a sustainable mode of travel for fans to visit FGR's new home ground, Eco Park, at Junction 13 of the M5." says: "It's good to hear in Radio Gloucestershire's succinct coverage today that, given the lack of political football over this issue, it appears to be basic common sense that we invest in restoring this link. The net business benefit for this part of our county is hardly difficult to perceive. Along with the likely opening of nearby Charfeld Station  after 59 years, we need this for better integration with Bristol and the West – Stroudwater is just the ticket!" What's your view? Email Mark Owen here . 

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