'Reverse Beeching' rail plan could link Kettering, Corby, Rutland, Stamford and Peterborough
Plans for the new route across the Harringworth Viaduct are in their very early stages
A new east - west direct train line connecting Kettering and Corby to places including Stamford and Peterborough has been proposed by rail campaigners.
The Welland Valley 'Beeching Reverse' rail link would begin at Kettering before calling at Corby, a new local station at Luffenham in Rutland, Stamford, Peterborough, Whittlesey, March and the new station being built at Wisbech.
It would be designed to reconnect stations serving about 400,000 people that have not had a direct rail link since the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. The people behind the plan say that most of the infrastructure is already in place so only three-and-a-half miles of new track would need to be laid between Seaton and Luffenham in Rutland.
A closed station at Luffenham could be rebuilt - but the old route of the line would need to be diverted to avoid new houses and new routes would have to be considered as part of the feasibility study.
Green battery-operated trains could potentially mean the line would not need to be electrified. A proposed second platform at Corby station could be utilised for the new service. Journey times between Corby and Peterborough could be just 29 minutes.
The proposed scheme already has the support of four MPs - Tom Pursglove of Corby and East Northants, Philip Hollbone of Kettering, Alicia Kearns of Rutland and Melton and Paul Bristow of Peterborough.
The government has asked communities to bid for seed funding from the £500m Restoring Your Railways pot. The money is available for towns to start making plans to rebuild historic transport links that were decimated when Dr Richard Beeching reviewed the nation's rail network in 1963. More than 2,000 stations were closed.
The new Welland Valley Rail plan is the brainchild of Chief Technical Officer Owen O'Neill. He says they would need around £50,000 from the pot to produce a feasibility study which would be the first step in their attempt to resurrect the line.
Owen, who lives in Birmingham and has the support of local rail campaigners, said: "I’d been working with local transport groups in the West Midlands and when this funding was announced I started looking around for other places where schemes might be viable and this line just absolutely jumped out at me.
"The Harringworth Viaduct has had so much spent on its restoration and takes so few trains.
"The Department for Transport will stump up 75 per cent of the feasibility study money and we'd need local councils to come up with the rest. It should only be three or four thousand each so we're hopeful of their support.
"The deadline is quite tight as we'd need to get the bid in by November but it's planned that the schemes that go forward would be on stream by 2024."
The contentious St Geroge's Barracks proposal for 2,300 homes on former MoD land in Rutland could be served by the proposed new train station. Owen added: "The St George's development is a matter for the local community to decide on, but it seems prudent to at least look at the potential for a local railway station to reduce the amount of road traffic generated."
Local rail campaigner David Fursdon, who is backing the scheme, said: “ The Welland Rail Partnership is welcomed by Corby Rail Users.
“We have wanted a Northbound route from Corby since the station reopend in 2009
”Passengers have told me they want more journey opportunities without having to use other stations so a rail link to Stamford and Peterborough has our backing.
“Corby is expanding rapidly, so must the rail service for commuting and leisure travel.
“WVRP provides an excellent opportunity to make the case for this to happen.
“I gather there is good support from local MPs and Councils along the route so this is most encouraging. Corby Rail Users back the proposal and look forward to this new rail service becoming reality and further enhancing rail travel to and from the town.”