Plans for expansion of Cheltenham railway still on cards
WORK on a large housing development in Cheltenham will not put the brakes on hopes to restore a second railway line through the town.
Changes have to be made to the Honeybourne Line embankment as part of the Midwinter development.
But it will still be kept strong enough so it could one day bear the weight of a railway line.
It means that the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway line could be extended into the heart of Cheltenham to link up with Cheltenham Spa.
GWR spokesman Ian Crowder said: "Since we took on the line, it has always been an ambition to extend it into Cheltenham for a link with the mainline.
"But every time there's another break in the line like this, it makes that more difficult to achieve."
Cheltenham Borough Council and Bloor Homes, the firm behind the 176-property scheme, spoke out on the matter yesterday.
Cabinet member for built environment Councillor Andrew McKinlay (LD, Up Hatherley) said: "The permission that went through stated that the embankment must be left so rail could be reinstated in the future.
"It was one of the subjects discussed during the planning process and the agreement leaves open the possibility of rail for the future."
The road access from the Prince of Wales Stadium side crosses the Honeybourne Line into the Midwinter site and has split the embankment.
Bloor planning director Steve Macpherson said the company would abide by the council's decision.
He said: "We are aware of the issue and are committed to maintaining public transport links for pedestrians and the long-term potential for rail. If the funding was ever found, then the potential would still be there for reinstating a rail link, but it would have to be re-engineered."
Heading south would see the line extended from its current halt at the racecourse to Cheltenham Spa, providing a useful link for race-goers.
A tram route is one of the other possibilities mooted for the line.
GWR owns the stretch north of the Prince of Wales Stadium, but the part through Cheltenham is controlled by the borough council.
GWR is extending its line north to Broadway and is likely to concentrate on that in the short term.
The ambitions won support from other councillors.
Councillor Ian Bickerton (LD, Leckhampton) added: "This route needs to be safeguarded and open the possibility of completing the GWR Honeybourne Steam Line with the final link from the racecourse to the town centre."
Mr Crowder conceded that any plan to extend rail along the path was likely to cost millions of pounds and therefore would only be possible in the long-term.