‘EXCITING’ plans to reopen the Rugby to Leicester railway line – which was closed under the Beeching cuts in the 1960s – have been backed by local campaigners and the MPs who represent Rugby and Lutterworth.
Sustainable Transport Northamptonshire has put forward a proposal to reconnect the old railway line between Rugby and Leicester, including two new passenger stations at Lutterworth and Cosby, a link to the Magna Park logistics hub near Lutterworth, and services between Northampton and Nottingham.
The project would see the railway line following its original position on the Great Central railway adjacent to the M1 motorway, before linking up with the Birmingham to Leicester line near the existing Narborough station.
The restored line would also integrate both Rugby Station and the proposed new parkway station at Houlton. The plans do not involve the section of the old railway line which runs through Rugby from Newton to Onley Lane, which would remain as the Great Central Walk nature reserve.
The plans have been put forward to the first stage of the government’s Restore Your Railway Fund, which seeks to restore lost rail connections. If the bid is successful, further resources will be allocated under an ‘Ideas Fund’ to explore the feasibility of the route.
Stephanie Clifford, Chair of the Rugby Rail Users Group (RRUG), said the proposed new route seemed ‘ingenious, useful and realistic’.
She said: “It’s just over 50 years since the direct rail link between Leicester and Rugby was closed. During that time, demand for passenger travel and freight has grown spectacularly, and RRUG is pleased to support the proposal to re-establish this connection.
“It restores a railway station to Lutterworth and provides a route for Rugby passengers not only to Leicester, but to Nottingham and beyond.
“The new settlements at Houlton and Lutterworth East will also be well-served by the link, adding to the journey possibilities.
“The proposed freight capacity will take pressure off local roads such as the busy A5, and relieve the congested West Coast Main Line between London and Rugby.
“In addition, the environmental credentials of the proposal are strong, as it effectively rides along next to the hard shoulder of the M1, minimising any impact. And the proposed route has been specifically chosen so that it does not impinge on any part of Rugby’s Great Central Walk.”
Harry Burr of Sustainable Transport Northamptonshire said: “As a new organisation created by the younger generation that will experience the biggest effects of climate change, Sustainable Transport Northamptonshire is very pleased to be leading on the Lutterworth Line application project to the Restoring Your Railway Fund.
“We’d like to connect as many people as possible in the most environmentally sustainable way we can, which is why we are supporting this project. It connects a town of 10,000 – Lutterworth, without an existing rail link – back to the rail network, while connecting three large communities together; Rugby, Northampton and Leicester.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey and South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa both wrote letters supporting the bid.
Mr Pawsey highlighted the benefits it would create for the local road network.
He said: “This is a really exciting project which would help boost regional connectivity. It would be very beneficial in removing HGV freight from the local road network in and around Rugby. This would not only help ease the congestion on key roads such as the A5, but is also significantly better for the environment as rail freight produces as much as 76 per cent less CO2 than road haulage.”
“Alongside the improvements and investment in new stations as a result of this project, I also wish to see additional investment at Rugby Station. We have a great station in the heart of the town, however there are longstanding challenges regarding access and parking.
“I will continue to work with the operators of Rugby Station, as well as local government and others, to secure this investment. If this bid to reopen the Leicester to Rugby line is successful, as I hope it will be, then there is an even greater case to continue to invest in our local station.”
Mr Costa said: “The proposals would revolutionise the regional transport system we have in South Leicestershire and would meet one of the government’s core objectives in moving HGV haulage to the much more sustainable rail freight network.
“The Lutterworth Line would bring huge economic and social benefits by linking Rugby, Northampton and Leicester together, and with a good sized station in Lutterworth and a village station for Cosby, this would allow my constituents to more easily travel around parts of the country. Also, this project would undoubtedly bring a significant amount of positive commerce into this part of the county.”