Rail campaigners are urging the government to consider proposals to provide a stopping service to better link towns between Crewe and Manchester.
The proposed route would run via the existing but closed railway line from Sandbach to Northwich via Middlewich and a new station at Gadbrook Park. Passenger services ceased at Middlewich station in 1960, principally blamed on the opening of the M6.
However, with increasing congestion along the M6 and main routes into Manchester, Mid Cheshire rail link campaigners believe there is an urgent need to resume the passenger service along this line.
A 2008 report by the Railway Steering Group concluded that the project was viable with a benefit:cost ratio of 5:1. Mid Cheshire RailLink said the report was circulated “widely to all national and local government agencies, Network Rail, media organisations and the rail industry but, although most supported it, no agency would take on responsibility for the project.”
However, campaigners at MidCheshire RailLink added: “At the time of the consultant’s report, national and regional projects such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse had not been announced.” The link to the HS2 hub station is now an essential part of the proposal: “the rail link from Crewe through to Northwich and beyond to Altrincham’s connection with Metrolink is a missing link in Crewe’s connectivity in an otherwise excellent network.”
Campaigners also mention that the “increases in house building in Middlewich, Sandbach and Northwich could not have been envisaged in the current magnitude and this is causing an increase in the population and squeezing the already inadequate road network to the point that the area is now gridlocked at peak periods. The revitalisation of the economy since 2009, both locally and nationally, has seen considerable growth in business along the route of the Mid Cheshire Line, and along the route of the rail link to Sandbach.”
Plans to expand the business park at Gadbrook by a further 98 acres is also seen as an incentive by campaigners as they feel the business park is contributing to congestion on the nearby A556.
Mid Cheshire rail campaigners believe that this project would cost below £10m, would provide an alternative rail link between the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands, easy access to Manchester city centre from Cheshire, and a direct link to Crewe and HS2.
Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West & Chester Council have been unable to provide financial support for the scheme and campaigners are now looking for investment from Government initiatives such as HS2 or the Northern Powerhouse.
Fiona Bruce, MP for Middlewich, raised the case for re-opening Middlewich station and operating a passenger service with the Rail Minister in the House of Commons. She said: “If Middlewich and the surrounding area are to reach their full – and currently greatly unrealised – potential, it is critical that the station at Middlewich is reopened to passengers and that appropriate investment is made in the line to facilitate this, and I shall continue to support and champion this both locally and in Parliament for as long as it takes to achieve it.”