Passenger train idea 'on track' for Ludgershall

MOD Army railway at Ludgershall (Photo © Robin Webster (cc-by-sa 2 0)

5:48am 17th November 2017

The train line that runs between Ludgershall and Andover could be re-opened to passengers.

It's an idea being pursued by local MP Claire Perry who arranged a recent meeting of key local stakeholders to discuss the possibility of re-instating passenger rail services on the 7 miles of track which are currently used only by the Ministry of Defence. Most of the rail infrastructure is already in place.

If the business case proves viable, a rail shuttle service to Andover could offer a further economic boost for Ludgershall and Tidworth which are already benefiting from rapid housing and population growth as a result of the Army Re-basing programme.

MP MEETS ROUNDTABLE:

Claire Perry led the Roundtable Meeting which was staged in Ludgershall on Saturday 4th November. Among those attending were representatives of Andover and Ludgershall Town Councils along with figures from the MoD, Network Rail and South Western Railways.

Claire Perry with Ludgershall Rail Group

Claire Perry with the Ludgershall Rail Group

After the meeting, Claire Perry said:

"Re-opening the Andover - Ludgershall Railway for passengers is an exciting possibility and I wanted to host a meeting of experts to help get the project on track."

"There is of course, much more work to do, and I am pleased that in the first instance that Swindon and Wiltshire Local Economic Partnership has agreed to conduct an initial feasibility study, and to include this project in the planned Regional Rail Strategy for Swindon and Wiltshire."

Claire also thanked Cllr Owen White, and the Ludgershall and Andover Town Councils for their continued work to champion this 'brilliant' opportunity for the local area.

LUDGERSHALL - PASSENGER TRAINS:

Re-opening the line is not a new idea. It's something that's been doing the rounds for years. Back in 2009 it appeared as one of several items on a document entitled 'Railfuture Wessex - Development to Rail Services'  the www.railfuture.org.uk document says:

  • Long term (beyond 2017)
  • Double track throughout Salisbury - Exeter.
  • Chord at Yeovil to permit through Bournemouth - Exeter services.
  • New station at Porton (?).
  • Passenger services to Ludgershall (?).

TRACKING HISTORY:

The train station at Ludgershall was closed in 1961 and then the Tidworth branch shut in 1963. This had all happened before the massive 'Beeching cuts' of 1965. Britain's railways were already suffering huge losses, and struggling to compete with road transport. Ludgershall's rail spur and connection to Andover were kept purely so the British Army could move tanks and equipment to the Salisbury Plain training area.

MOVEMENTS LAST YEAR:

The Rail Link proposal was presented in September 2016 to Ludgershall Town Council by Aaron Smith from Fowler Architecture. His firm had been looking at the infrastructure of the rail station / surrounding roads and access. At that time three options were discussed:

  1. Shuttle line between Andover & Ludgershall providing a station at Ludgershall costing approx.. £4million (this does not allow MOD use of line)
  2. Upgrade signaling and separate line/station at Ludgershall (MOD can use) approx.. £7million
  3. Provide Ludgershall as a hub for connection through to London/Reading approx.. £12 million

Aaron Smith said they'd consulted with Network Rail and they have no objections to reopen for public use, but it wasn't clear who would be the operator. There was a question about how it would all be funded. There was reference to possible Government Grants for upgrading the existing link.

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