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HS2 opponents call for reopening of Rugby's Great Central Railway

Rugby Editorial 5th Aug, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016

OPPONENTS to the proposed HS2 rail link have called for the Great Central Railway to be opened instead.

Transport campaign group English Regional Transport Association (ERTA) said reopening the old line would be a better option, particularly in Warwickshire, than the controversial new scheme.

The group says it could provide relief to the Midland Main Line and the West Coast Main Line.

An ETRA spokesman said: “We believe that out of some £50billion for HS2, we’d still have plenty of change.”

He described HS2 as “a bogus railway which links neither HS1 nor the Channel Tunnel, doesn’t cater for freight, doesn’t go anywhere near the West Coast Main Line or the M1 and stops at limited stations – speed being it’s goal.”

ETRA Chair Richard Pill added: “It is relatively straightforward to reopen this main line. A few deviations and bypasses – like a link with the West Coast Main Line short of Rugby – could correct past mistakes and give optimum capacity flexibility of railway passenger and freight operations.”

But Stephanie Clifford, chair of the Rugby Rail Users Group, said she preferred the HS2 option.

She said: “There is nothing to choose, as neither HS2 nor this proposed line will feature a station in Rugby.

“What is worrying about the ERTA proposal is that it could delay the provision of new capacity even further into the future.

“HS2 has lots of faults, and it is not the optimum solution for Rugby, but it does have a realistic chance of happening. On grounds of political feasibility alone, HS2 has to be preferred to any new proposal.”

Rugby and Bulkington MP Mark Pawsey also doubted the idea, saying: “In many ways I do see the merits and benefits of the ERTA’s proposals.

“However, this was looked at around 20 years ago and deemed to be unviable due to development on the line. Given that more building will have occurred since, I do think this will be a difficult proposal to take forward.”

Tory MP Mr Pawsey went against his party when he voted against HS2 in April 2014, saying it could affect Warwickshire residents, drain public funds, and harm existing rail services between Rugby and London.

He subsequently admitted the time had come to accept Parliament’s decision to go ahead with the project.

The Great Central Railway, which runs intermittently from Newton Picnic Site to Onley Lane, was closed in 1969 and is now a 4.5 mile nature reserve pathway known as Great Central Walk.

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