Beeching be damned, our towns need investment in services
ROYAL WOOTTON BASSETT
EAST CHISEN BURY
There is a growing business case for re-opening train stations in our larger towns, such as Devizes and Corsham, suggests Neil Henty.
How easy do you find it to travel around Wiltshire? We often joke that there are three routes from north to south, dissected by the M4 in the north and the A303 in the south. Of course, there are many more roads but I’ve not met anyone yet who believes traversing Wiltshire by car is an easy enterprise. The views are incredible, of course, but the general state of the roads and speed of traffic makes enjoying the scenery racing past the window an impossible and not entirely safe thing to do.
What about public transport? It is an area I don’t have much experience of, I must admit. If I need to get somewhere I normally drive rather than take a bus, and I have only ever stepped on a train to leave the county, but two meetings recently got me thinking more about our train services, especially those we lost in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
We have mentioned former train services in Wiltshire Life before; the details of former stations and anecdotes about interesting journeys, as well as places like Wilton, with its two stations, long disused, which offered locals the chance to travel on either the Bristol to London line, or the Exeter to London line. Like many places there has been a campaign with strong local support to re-open at least one station.
Many towns in Wiltshire are growing, with new housing being built to such an extent that it is hard to see how local roads can cope with the expected increase in traffic. Where possible, offering the option of travel by train would ease the burden on the roads, which in turn should help to decrease pollution, a winwin for both travellers and the environment.
I mentioned two meetings, interviews really. The first was in Corsham with Nicola White of Previous Homewares [Down your way, page 46]. This beautiful town often seems to be overshadowed by Lacock and Bradford on Avon. But it has a bigger
BERWICK ST JAMES
population than these towns and much to offer the visitor. Corsham Station opened in June 1841 on the Great Western Railway line from London to Bristol and operated until January 1965, a victim like so many other stations of the Beeching cuts. Nicola argues that there is a need for Corsham Station to re-open to attract visitors and to make it easier for the population of the expanding town to link to other areas for work and leisure.
BROAD CHALKE TOLLARD
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There has been strong local support. A 2009 district council consultation received over 3,000 replies and local MP Michelle Donelan has asked questions in the commons on the issue. As of this January, the campaign is still very much active, with the support of both the local and Wiltshire Council, while the local neighbourhood plan safeguards land for a future station.
only clue. The tunnel that runs under Devizes Castle is bricked up at one end and all the track has disappeared.
You can see the case for making Devizes a transport hub, potentially linking the town to other stations and towns in the county, opening up new commuter and shopping routes and re-connecting the town to the line from Bristol to London. Businesses are generally supportive.
Wouldn’t it make sense for this to happen? Shouldn’t we make it easier for people to visit the town, taking cars off the road in the process? I am sure the town’s independent shops would welcome it, and I am sure the commuters of the growing town would welcome the option of car free travel to work or to visit other parts of the county.
Later the same week, I had the pleasure of interviewing the new MP for Devizes, Danny Kruger, and during the course of our interview, which you can read on page 28, he mentioned the business case for re-opening a train station in Devizes. Given its location in the centre of the county you can see the attraction, especially with the population of Devizes and surrounding areas, such as Nursted, continuing to grow. The original station was on the Devizes Branch Line, which ran from Holt Junction to Patney and Chirton, providing a link between London and Bristol, and which included stops at Semington and Seend.
Devizes Station was opened in 1857 and closed in 1966; Beeching again. Little remains today to show that a station once graced the town, a car park on Station Road almost the
There are, of course, some significant hurdles that would need to be overcome. Perhaps the major one being that there is no existing track or infrastructure. It would take a very big engineering project with large funds behind it to have any chance. Then there is the fact that the town has grown since the station closed so where would you site the line? What land would need to be purchased? Would there be an environmental impact? And much more besides.
No problems are insurmountable though and it is clear that the idea has the backing of the county’s newest MP. It seems that a potential site may have been located three miles to the south of the town, along existing track. Devizes Development Partnership believes there is potential for a park and ride service, with space for 400 cars. While a station so far out of town may not sound ideal for some, the problem Devizes has is that it on a hill, which limits where any ‘new’ track might go, and that stations near the centre of towns add to traffic congestion.
Both Corsham and Devizes are definitely worth keeping an eye on. WL