Agenda item

Radstock to Frome Railway - Feasibility Study

Report to Cabinet the conclusions of the Halcrow report into the Radstock to Frome Railway


Councillor Eleanor Jackson in a statement [a copy of which is attached to the Minutes as Appendix 3 and on the Council's website] said that the Radstock line would only require eight miles of track to be re-engineered and re-laid, and was 14th on the ATOL list of suburban lines which should be re-opened.  She said that the estimated cost of £41.3 million would make it much cheaper than any comparable road option, while it would become much easier to ship out goods from the area, reduce congestion and attract tourists.  She asked the Cabinet to take the necessary steps to bring back the trains to Radstock.

George Bailey (Radstock Action Group) in a statement [a copy of which is attached to the Minutes as Appendix 4 and on the Council's website] said that the feasibility report had been generally negative without looking at opportunities and had ignored several matters.  He was pleased to see that officers had recommended the report should be re-worked and gave a number of issues which he felt should be considered more fully in the new report.

The Chair thanked George Bailey and observed that he felt his statement had been the best statement to Cabinet that he had heard.

Councillor Roger Symonds thanked George Bailey and Councillor Eleanor Jackson for their contributions.  He felt that the recommendations did reflect the intention to request further work by Halcrow, to address the issues raised by the speakers.  He suspected that this would not make very much difference to the outcome as expressed in paragraph 5.8 of the report, which closed the door for the present but not for ever.  The long-term aim was to open up Radstock to the whole rail network.  He agreed that almost every station had experienced increased usage which was encouraging for the future.  He encouraged local people in Radstock to set up an active volunteer group which would prove their commitment to make a future branch line work.  He moved proposals which were slightly amended from the officer recommendations, the effect of which would include in the new report the consideration of the possible expansion of the Metro to include Westbury.

Councillor Paul Crossley seconded the proposal.  He agreed that Halcrow must be told clearly what issues need to be considered in the new report.  He was particularly grateful for the ideas from George Bailey and others from Radstock.  He felt that there would be good opportunities in the future – if not immediately.

Councillor Simon Allen said that re-opening the line had been a long held ambition and the local community had committed a great deal of work to it.  He recognised the need to be realistic about timescales, but said that by protecting the route of the line the Cabinet was ensuring the future possibility of re-opening the line.

Councillor Cherry Beath endorsed what others had said.  She referred particularly to the point made by George Bailey about the large contingency and fees built into the costings, which she felt must be reduced to make the project more viable.

Councillor Tim Ball said he also endorsed previous comments.  He emphasised that the regeneration of Radstock must be achieved before a branch line could be said to be viable.

Councillor Roger Symonds, in summing up, referred to the comment made by Councillor Simon Allen about the protection of the route.  He promised to check this, and if possible to ensure protection.  He knew that the majority of the route was in fact protected.

On a motion from Councillor Roger Symonds, seconded by Councillor Paul Crossley, it was

RESOLVED (unanimously)

(1) To NOTE the conclusions of the study as outlined in paragraph 5.11 of the report;

(2) To NOTE that the majority of the disused railway line remains protected within the Local Plan Policy D9 for ‘sustainable transport purposes’ which at the moment is represented by a cycle path, NCN 24;

(3) To ASK Halcrow to review their conclusions in the light of the results of the 2011 Census and the likely growth in housing in the area promoted in the Core Strategy to ascertain if their conclusions remain valid in the light of this more up to date information; and

(4) To ASK Halcrow to consider the merits of a simple shuttle between Radstock and Westbury to allow access to the wider rail network including intercity services both to London and the South West and the implications of the potential expansion of the Greater Bristol Metro Scheme.

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