BIG BOOST FOR WATERSIDE RAILWAY HOPES I am absolutely delighted that the Depart…

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BIG BOOST FOR WATERSIDE RAILWAY HOPES

I am absolutely delighted that the Department of Transport have selected the project to restore a passenger service along the Waterside railway line, as one of the top ten priorities for the £500 million funding available for getting new train services up and running.

This is a project I have been pushing for over a decade now, supporting it in a number of ways, including public meetings, social media posts, letters to the press, Council and Government lobbying and generally keeping it on the public agenda.

I know that not everybody is supportive, but I honestly believe that the reservations I have listened to, and will continue to listen to, can be properly dealt with. There is almost no project that doesn't have some potential downsides. Nobody wants to see long closures of the Totton train gates, for example. If I didn't think these things could be resolved, or that the benefits didn't outweigh the disadvantages, I wouldn't support them.

Much credit goes to Nick Farthing, Chair of the Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership and his team, for presenting the case for investment. With the backing of central government, it now looks increasingly likely that we will have passenger trains running up and down the Waterside line on a regular basis, for the first time since the 1960's.

Here is the official Press Release :

Transport Secretary announces new measures to “keep passengers safe now and level up for the future”

Additional funding to increase frequency and capacity of bus, tram and light rail services, to help people travel safely
Further investment in railways to regenerate local economies and level up Britain
Preferred route announced for £1billion upgrade to major road link which runs across Northern Powerhouse, from Teeside to Cumbria
Further funding to protect and increase transport services, level up infrastructure and regenerate local economies after coronavirus has been announced by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today (Saturday, 23 May).

A further £283m has been made available to increase the number of bus and light rail services as quickly as possible so that people who need to travel, including critical workers in the NHS, can do so safely.

The funding – amounting to £254m for buses and £29m for trams and light rail – will help protect and increase services, allowing people travelling to hospitals, supermarkets or their place of work to get to their destination safely and quickly, while helping ensure there is enough space for them to observe social distancing guidelines. The funding will be kept under review to ensure that full services can be up and running as quickly as possible.

In addition to the funding, 3,400 people including British Transport Police officers, Network Rail and train operator staff have been deployed at stations to advise passengers and make sure people can follow the guidance put in place. From June 1st at the earliest, twice that many will start to be deployed with the assistance of groups like the charity Volunteering Matters.

Rail passengers across the country will also now benefit from a personalised information service to help them stagger their journeys. Passenger Connect from British tech start-up ZipAbout will tell passengers how disruption and crowding may affect their journey, providing alternatives and helping people maintain social distancing when they need to travel. The service has been successfully piloted by National Rail over the last 12 months and can now support millions of rail users with personalised updates to keep them on the move.

To make it easier for people to choose alternatives to public transport, a series of measures are being rolled out to encourage more people to cycle instead, including:

Allocating local authorities a share of £225million, announced earlier this month, to create pop up and permanent cycle lanes and reallocate road space.
Amending laws to reduce red tape and halve the time it takes for councils to get these schemes up and running.
Committing £25million from the emergency active travel fund to help people get their bikes repaired so that they can get back to cycling.
Investing £2.5million to provide 1,180 cycle parking spaces at thirty railway stations across England to help encourage people to incorporate cycling as part of a longer journey.
The Government is also working with local authorities and private car park owners to make it easier for people commuting by car to get closer to their place of work and finish their journey on foot or by bike without the need to take public transport. Plans will focus on developing new schemes at car parks near, but not in, city centres from where drivers could collect a bike – or use their own – and follow new cycling or walking routes which would be colour coded by distance.

Transport Secretary and Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Grant Shapps said:

“From NHS staff to transport and shop workers, teachers, volunteers and all those staying at home, people across the country are all sharing the same public-spirited approach to tackling the spread of this virus and keeping others safe.

“To make sure people can travel safely when they need to, we are increasing capacity on buses and light rail, as well as helping local authorities fast-track plans to support cyclists and pedestrians, further reducing pressure on our transport network.

“These measures will help keep passengers safe now, but we must also prepare for what comes next. Strengthening vital road and railway connections, as well as encouraging cycling and walking, will be essential to our ambition to level up the country, secure a green legacy, and kickstart regional economies, as we build out of Covid-19 and look to the future.”

Looking to the future, the Transport Secretary has also laid out further plans to transform the country’s transport infrastructure to help the country ‘build out’ of Covid-19, supporting the nation’s economy, and delivering on the Government’s key agenda of levelling up the country.

The Government has today announced the preferred route for the £1bn A66 Transpennine upgrade, which will provide vital improvements to a key regional link which helps to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Leeds, Sheffield and Norwich, improving journey times, reliability and resilience for communities across the North. The new scheme will dual the five remaining single carriageway sections of the route and upgrade key junctions, speeding up journeys, easing congestion and boosting growth. The road is an important link across the Pennines and is a key connection used on routes between ports around the country, meaning that the wider UK economy will benefit from improvements and faster journeys.

Ten bids have also been announced today to receive a share of a £500k Restoring Your Railways ‘Ideas Fund’ to develop proposals to build or reopen railway lines and stations, including those closed following the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. MPs and local authorities were invited to bid for a share of the fund to help reconnect communities across the country, levelling up opportunities for people in isolated areas by increasing their access to jobs and training which will be crucial as the country recovers from coronavirus.

Notes to editors

Parking

· Also under consideration is new guidance for privately owned car parks, such as those outside cinemas, and bike and e-bike rental companies to help them set up ‘park and walk/cycle’ schemes in areas across the UK – helping create more options for greener inner-city travel.

Light rail/buses funding

· Backdated to 12 May, the £283m investment will help increase bus and light rail services in line with social distancing guidelines, with measures to keep staff and passengers safe during the pandemic, including adjustments to vehicles, signage, deep cleaning and the provision of hand sanitiser.

· The light rail funding will support operators in Sheffield, Nottingham, Tyne and Wear, Manchester and the West Midlands.

A66

· The A66 is an important local and regional road, linking the east and west of northern England across the Pennines, from the M6 junction 40 at Penrith to the A1(M) at Scotch Corner.

· Results from the public consultation held last year as well as other important factors including minimising community severance and ensuring environmental protection were used to select the preferred route.

· Following preferred route announcement, Highways England will commence a range of engagement activities including holding focus groups with local stakeholders. In the coming months the project will move into the preliminary design phase which will involve more detailed surveys and refinement of the scheme design in preparation for the statutory public consultation in 2021.

Volunteering Matters

· Volunteering Matters are a key part of the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergency Partnership. This partnership was established in 2017 following the Grenfell fire to assist coordination amongst voluntary and community sector agencies, with DCMS providing a grant of £200,000 to the Partnership in March to support its working in response to COVID-19.

Beeching

· Bids progressing to the next stage come from across the country and include proposals to reinstate the Ivanhoe line in the East Midlands, and the Clitheroe-Hellifield line in the North West, as well as to reopen the Wellington and Cullompton stations in the South West. These rail links will help reconnect towns, ease congestion, regenerate economies and improve accessibility to jobs, homes and education.

· The Transport Secretary has also agreed to give £5m to further develop the plan to reinstate passenger services on the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line in Northumberland, in addition to the £1.5m initially pledged.

· Several lines and stations closed under Beeching have already been successfully re-opened. Todmorden Curve in West Yorkshire re-opened in 2015, enabling direct services from Burnley and Accrington to Manchester for the first time in forty years. The nineteen-mile Ebbw Vale branch line in South Wales, closed to passengers in 1962, was reopened in 2008 – with passenger demand exceeding predictions by 450%.

· The list of successful bids for this round is below:

Reopening Meir Railway Station between Stoke-On-Trent and North Staffordshire

Reinstatement of the Barrow Hill line between Sheffield and Chesterfield

Reinstatement of the Ivanhoe line

Reinstatement of branch lines on the Isle of Wight

Reinstatement of the Abbey line between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction

Reopening of Wellington and Cullompton stations

Reinstatement of the Bury-Heywood-Rochdale lines

Reinstatement of the Clitheroe to Hellifield railway line

Reinstatement of rail access to Devizes via a new station at Lydeway

Reintroduction of passenger rail services on the Waterside line

Craig Owen
Senior External Affairs Manager (Aviation and Maritime), Group Communications

5/29, Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR

07971 144151

Follow us on twitter @transportgovuk

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