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£500m promised by Government to restore historic rail lines

Photo: PA Wire

The Government is going ahead with plans to reverse historical rail cuts, despite critics warning its £500 million budget is not sufficient.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is visiting Fleetwood today with a pledge £100,000 towards a feasibility study into reopening the train line linking the Lancashire town to Poulton-le-Fylde.

The Fleetwood line was shut in 1970 as part of a ripping-up of Britain’s tracks, as recommended by the Beeching Report.

More than 5,000 miles of track and nearly 1,500 stations were closed between 1964 and 1970, following a report by British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching.

Another area that could benefit from the £500 million fund designed to restore passenger services is Blyth, with Mr Shapps granting £1.5 million towards generating ideas for re-establishing the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland.

The announcement comes after Blyth Valley elected a Conservative MP for the first time in its history at the December election.

The Fleetwood line was shut in 1970 as part of a rail cuts of Britain’s tracks, as recommended by the Beeching Report. Photo: PA Wire

‘Undoing the damage’

Mr Shapps said: “Many communities still live with the scars that came from the closure of their local railway more than five decades ago.

“Today sees work begin to undo the damage of the Beeching cuts by restoring local railways and stations to their former glory.”

Critics have previously warned that the £500 million allocated by the Government, a manifesto promise being acted on by Mr Shapps, was well short of the mark if all of Beeching’s cuts were to be reversed.

Sim Harris, managing editor of industry newspaper Railnews, told PA news agency that reopening many of the lines which fell victim to the Beeching cuts would cost “billions”.

One of the last major re-openings of a line in Britain was the Borders Railway in September 2015.

The £294 million link between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders re-established part of the former Waverley line, which fell victim to the Beeching cuts.

New stations

The Government also plans to open another round of bidding for setting up new stations, allocating £20 million to the initiative.

Two previous rounds of the scheme helped lead to the development of 10 new stations across England and Wales, said the Department for Transport (DfT).

It comes as reports surfaced this week that Mr Shapps is considering taking the Northern franchise back into public control.

The Arriva-owned franchise has been dogged by a series of cancellations and late-running services after it introduced a new timetable in May 2018.

A DfT spokeswoman told PA news agency an announcement would be made this week.

“We continue to develop contingency plans for the replacement of the current franchise, and will set out next steps by the end of the month,” said the spokeswoman.

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