PRIORITY plans to improve passenger links to Manchester Airport mean Middlewich Railway Station will finally be reopened, campaigners believe.
A scheme to open a circular link to the busy airport would rely heavily on the existing Middlewich line, which runs between Sandbach and Northwich.
Improving rail links to Manchester Airport was a key recommendation of the MIDMAN study, a report into transport in the North West, and members of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign believe the route will eventually lead to the reopening of the passenger station off King Street.
At present the line is only open to freight trains, so any plans would involve upgrading the route.
However, Middlewich will definitely not get a railway station before 2010 because the Strategic Rail Authority is using Government cash to improve rail links in the south and has said it will not look at new projects until that work is complete.
That means residents will have at least a seven-year wait until they can catch a train out of the town, though the MRLC says it will be using the extra time to prepare a strong case to reopen the station.
MRLC spokesman Dave Roberts said: 'The North West Regional Assembly wants to see the opening of Manchester Airport's rail link as a priority, and so do we because then the Middlewich line will be upgraded, which is now our objective.
'The NWRA wants to see a circular line incorporating Manchester Airport, Sandbach, then through Middlewich and on to Northwich, then to the airport and round again. Improving the line will open up circular services.'
Mr Roberts added: 'The date of 2010 is the earliest the SRA would start to consider it so we have always known it would be quite a long haul, but we have to keep plugging away. And with the prospective link with Manchester Airport a priority, it's good news.'
Campaigners could also benefit from £200,000 given to the North West Development Agency to investigate rail bids such as the plan to reopen Middlewich Railway Station, which closed in the 1960s.
Cheshire City councillor Dave Sutton has long been involved in the fight to reopen the station and is optimistic for the future. He said: 'We are in the melting pot for this money from the NWDA and we need to make sure we are at the top for it.'