Grant Shapps launches £500m fund to reopen rail stations - but Northern Powerhouse Partnership casts doubt

Transport Minister Grant Shapps visiting the Yorkshire Post offices in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps visiting the Yorkshire Post offices in Leeds. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The Government will today launch a £500m fund to reopen rail stations that have been out of use for decades with an ambition to “reverse” the controversial Beeching cuts.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is due to visit Fleetwood to promote the funding pot, which is aimed at helping “reconnect towns across the country, improving opportunities for people in previously neglected communities”, according to the Government.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Some £21.9m of funding will be announced for two routes and New Stations Fund, and communities invited to pitch their restoration proposals direct to Government.

Two previous rounds of the scheme have already helped develop 10 new stations across England and Wales. The new round will be allocated £20m.

British Rail chief Dr Richard Beeching originally proposed cuts in 1963, and eventually around a third of passenger rail network was shut, with more than 2,300 stations and up to 5,000 miles of track across the UK closing.

To launch the “reversal scheme”, the Government is also giving funding to develop proposals for reopening two lines in the near future: £1.5m to the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line in Northumberland, and £100,000 to the Fleetwood line in Lancashire.

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.

“Investing in transport links is essential to levelling up access to opportunities across the country, ensuring our regions are better connected, local economies flourish and more than half a century of isolation is undone.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “All further investment in rail, particularly in the Northern Powerhouse, is to be welcomed as it will contribute to the levelling up the Prime Minister has hoped for.

“However, reopening rail lines is more expensive than this fund will significantly address alone and needs to be set against projects like Trans Pennines Route Upgrade where the Secretary of State has yet to make progress on spending the £3bn promised by his predecessor under Theresa May’s government.

“The reason supporters of re-opening the Skipton-Colne railway met today in Westminster is not just for passengers but because of the lack of viable routes for freight across the Pennines.

“If progress had been made upgrading the existing line with assurances on freight across the Pennines, we could be sure to better exploit our ports on the Humber and Mersey to help us become a global leader in trade, as we shouldn’t be so dependent on this line being completed to see progress.

“Funding for Trans Pennines Route Upgrade and line reopening should be devolved, so decisions don’t sit on officials and then the Secretary of State’s desks so long that they leave government before any progress gets made.”

Campaigners from the Skipton East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership want to see the Skipton to Colne line, which connected Yorkshire to Lancashire, reinstated.