Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Some prefer it from the grill

Posted in Great Britain, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 9 September 2010

The railway network in Great Britain is not what it was, as I’m sure you’re all aware. The implementation of the plan outlined in The Reshaping of British Railways saw huge tracts of the railway network closed, cutting off towns from passenger rail services. An interesting document to look at is the list of towns in Great Britain that have no railway station, of which there are a number that are quite significant. In 2009, ATOC published a proposal called Connecting Communities, where it laid out plans to reinstate a number of routes long since disestablished. Indeed, it has been shown that railways are an economic driver, and investment in building railways will eventually pay for itself. In England, until it reopened in 1995, Mansfield was the largest town without a railway station. This record then passed to Corby, until it was reconnected in 2009. There is a market for using the train, as is evidenced by this. Indeed, even Iarnród Éireann, who I have heavily criticised, have put their hands in their pockets and forked out for the restoration of a number of lines. However, looking at it, how much of all of these reconnections are actually new lines (where there is no extant railway), and how much is existing line that has been upgraded. Which brings me to a specific instance.

A colleague of mine lives in the town of Towcester, in Northamptonshire, but works in London. Towcester is one of the towns on the list of having no railway station, so my colleague drives every day to Milton Keynes Central to then catch the train to Euston. However, Towcester did have a railway station once; one that was at the central point of a network connecting Bedford with Stratford-upon-Avon. The Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway connected a large part of the Midlands without going directly through the larger cities in the region. However, it was not well patronised, with only a handful of services, making it ripe for closure under Beeching. But, Towcester is a town of over 10,000, not counting everyone who lives in the Metropolitan Towcester area, while further south is the town of Olney, which has a population of 6,000, again not mention people living in villages surrounding it. Now, I have no idea how complete the old infrastructure is between Bedford and Towcester, which went through Olney, but surely that would be the kind of rural route where the restablishment of a rail service, in the form of a light rail type, would be a winner. Reinstating a line starting from Bedford, with a stop at Olney, and perhaps a park and ride before getting to Towcester, has the potential to directly connect a significant population to London – Bedford is located on the Midland Main Line, so trains from St Pancras could potentially run along such a reinstated route. This needn’t be all day – two trains per day in each direction, during peak periods would be direct trains to London, with perhaps another in the morning and in the evening, with the service during the rest of the day provided by the light rail shuttle that could terminate at Bedford, connecting with trains both to London and the East Midlands. I’ve even thought of how the station could cope with both ordinary trains and low-floor tram-trains, as you can see. The route I envisage would see three stations built, with a parkway station that interchanges with the Northampton Loop, and thus allows access to both London via the WCML and to the West Midlands. At a stroke, this area is directly connected to a pair of major routes to the north, with wider access east and west. This is the kind of investment in infrastructure that I have been banging on about for ever, as a way of both increasing economic development and promoting the green agenda of getting people out of cars and onto trains. It would be nice though if someone else could have the ideas.

An idea of how the Towcester line could be designed - both Olney and Towcester have four platforms, while Roade has two for tram-trains, and another two on the WCML

An idea of the connections the Towcester to Bedford line would have, and where you could go


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  1. […] Some prefer it from the grill « Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts […]

  2. […] a conversation with a colleague of mine today (the same one that used to live in Towcester, which I spoke about last year, although she has now moved to Bletchley) in which she said that she was heading to […]

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