A LONG-RUNNING battle to restore rail links from Northwich to Crewe is back on track.
Council chiefs have given their backing to a project to upgrade the obsolete line and reopen Middlewich Station for the first time in 50 years.
Supporters of the scheme say it is now ‘full steam ahead’ and rail users have welcomed the news, which follows a report by Railway Consultancy Ltd on behalf of the Middlewich Railway Steering Group (MRSG).
The dossier said upgrading the Northwich-Crewe line for passenger services and reopening Middlewich Station is viable and talks between project leaders, Network Rail and Northern Trains are imminent.
MRSG chairman Vernon Perkins said: “The option which provides a service from Northwich to Crewe via Middlewich far exceeded our expectations, providing a benefit-cost ratio which is substantially higher than the threshold required to take the project further.”
It is understood the cost of implementing the scheme could be as little as £1.5m – and rail bosses could rake in up to five times that amount in increased revenue.
Mid Cheshire Rail Users’ Association chairman John Oates told the Chronicle: “This is a great opportunity to do something really important for Northwich at relatively little cost – the infrastructure is already there.”
He said the project would mean passengers travelling from Northwich would be able to change at Crewe and go straight to major cities including Birmingham and London.
And, he claimed, the plans could be realised ‘in less than five years’.
Cheshire West and Chester council’s environment portfolio holder, Neil Ritchie, added: “A new direct rail service between Northwich and Crewe via Middlewich would be of great benefit to all the county’s residents.”
The report also said the project would reduce the volume of people commuting by car and the local impact of climate change, and will help stem the growth of fuel costs over the next 20 years.
With a population of 13,600, Middlewich is currently the largest town in Cheshire without a railway station.
Stakeholders have been calling for the return of a passenger service in the town for more than 15 years.
The Holmes Chapel Road station has not been used since 1959.
Cllr Ritchie said: “This paves the way for taking the scheme to the next stage, including getting the all-important backing from the rail industry.”