Proposals to reopen a mothballed North Staffordshire railway line have been resubmitted – after hitting the buffers last year.
MPs and local councils are hoping it will be second time lucky as they look to secure government funding for the plan to restore the Stoke-to-Leek line, which has been closed since 1988.
An initial application to the £500 million Restoring Your Railways fund last year was unsuccessful, but now a revised outline proposal has been submitted.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council could receive up to £50,000 to fund the development of a business case for the reopening, if their new bid is accepted.
Local MPs backing the plans say more than 1,000 residents have signed a petition in support of the bid.
Staffordshire Moorlands MP Karen Bradley said: “Having a clean, reliable train service into the city would benefit so many people in the Moorlands who travel for work and leisure.
“It would also allow many more to visit the beautiful Moorlands countryside and attractions without adding to the pressure on our roads and has the potential to take freight off the roads, benefiting those who live along the A53, A520, A52 and A523. This bid is another step towards reinstating the line and I will do all I can to turn this into a reality.”
Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis believes Norton, Milton and Stockton Brook in his constituency would all benefit from the line reopening.
He added: “The reopening of the line would benefit the whole of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, connecting Leek up with Stoke Station. It will help level-up North Staffordshire.”
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“Rail connectivity is crucial if we are to improve public transport locally. The re-opening of the line will not happen overnight, but we are heading in the right direction to get our case heard by government; giving us the best chance to turn it into a reality.”
Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Jo Gideon added: “I am delighted that the meetings I’ve hosted with train operators have all been positive. There is a real need and desire for better public transport in Stoke-on-Trent. Better options for trains will mean less-congested roads, too. Thirty per cent of households locally don’t have a car, and it’s great that we’ve worked so closely together as MPs along the line to get North Staffordshire moving again – for everyone.”
If the bid is successful, the funding award would pay for a formal feasibility study into how the line would operate, including where stations could be located and what sort of services would run on it.
Proposals to reopen Meir Station, which was closed as part of the infamous Beeching cuts in 1966, have already advanced to this stage.
The city council was awarded £37,500 by the Department for Transport earlier this year to further develop the plans.
Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton, who backed the Meir bid, said: “Reopening the Stoke-Leek line with a station at Fenton Manor would massively improve our local public transport and is a big part of our plans to transform rail services locally.
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“Together with a refurbished Longton station, a new station at Meir, and a proposed station at Trentham alongside more investment in buses, this network is really starting to come together. I would urge the Government to back our plans to properly connect up North Staffordshire making it easier for people to get around, significantly improving access to skills and work.”
There have been 110 applications to the Restoring Your Railway Fund from across England and Wales so far, with 25 of these advancing to the second stage. It is not yet known how many of the proposed schemes the government will ultimately fund.
The councils and MPs will find out in the summer if their new Stoke-to-Leek bid has been successful in reaching the second stage.