Former government minister and TV rail documentary presenter, Michael Portillo, joined with Talk Talk founder and local philanthropist Neil McArthur to launch a proposal for the opening of a heritage railway, pedestrian and cycle route on a viaduct between Irlam and Timperley.
The proposal would involve bringing six miles of disused railway track back into use as steam railway, similar to the popular East Lancashire Railway, and the creation of a cycle and pedestrian route adding 8.5m miles to the National Cycle Network.
McArthur previously invested £2m in the refurbishment of Station House at Irlam where the press conference on Tuesday took place.
The line lost its passenger service in 1964 and the freight service ended in 1984 with the closure of the Cadishead viaduct over the Manchester Ship Canal.
The re-opening of the line, believes Neil McArthur, would be both a tourist attraction similar to the popular 20km Bury-based East Lancashire Railway, and also bring together on cycle, on foot and by train, the communities of Partington and Carrington in Trafford, and Irlam and Cadishead in Salford.
Network Rail currently owns the line but said it lacks the funds to maintain the disused Cadishead viaduct which McArthur is keen to redevelop.
McArthur estimated the cost of the proposal at between £25m and £30m. The Hamilton Davies Trust, which was founded by Neil and Anne McArthur in 2004 with the aim of supporting the local communities of Irlam and Cadishead in Salford, is funding feasibility studies into the Cadishead project.
McArthur has met with stakeholders Trafford Council, Salford Council, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships and Sustrans, the body responsible for the nation’s cycle network, and said a steering group had now been developed.
A key part of the proposal is reopening the 1.5km branch line from Irlam Station to Glazebrook East Junction. Stations at Cadishead, Partington, and West Timperley would also be rebuilt.
McArthur said: “The economic, social and environmental benefits would be huge. The East Lancs heritage railways shows the demand with 200,000 passengers a year, so there is a local example to learn from. We’re asking the political representatives and transport bodies to join with us in exploring the art of the possible. Before the launch today, we have held a workshop to discuss the options and we are encouraged by the positive response to take this forward.”
With over 10,000 homes planned in Carrington and Irlam by developers including Himor, McArthur feels that the cycle route would improve connectivity and investment in those communities.
McArthur also anticipated that once the line reopened as a heritage route for steam trains that it could pave the way for a modern ‘heavy rail’ passenger service route, or even a future Metrolink extension from Altrincham.