Background to SWO
This page provides more background as to the history of rail services at Stratford upon Avon and also outlines some of the issues that have been raised or are relevant to SWO.
Stratford has nearly lost its current rail service twice in the past
In 1969, an application to close passenger services between Birmingham and
Stratford upon Avon via Henley in Arden was then made by British Rail. This was all but approved.
It was only the actions of a local businessman, Michael Brockington, who was responsible for breaking an embargo on an advertisement due to be published in the Stratford-upon-
Avon Herald, which detailed the replacement bus services and the closure date that effectively saved the line! Brockington forwarded this information to the Solicitor, acting for the five local councils, who were
able to obtain an injunction against British Rail in the High Court (granted on appeal) stopping the
closure. This 11th hour success was due only because British Rail had attempted to close the railway before the replacement bus services had been approved by the Traffic Commissioners.
Had Michael Brockington, who worked at the local newspaper known as the Stratford Herald,
waited until the advertisement was published it would have been too late for the solicitor to act due to the High Court's three week Easter recess and Stratford’s railway fate would have been sealed.
In 1984 the BR tried again to close the Stratford upon Avon-Birmingham route between Henley in Arden and Bearley Junction. This would have made Henley in Arden an uneconomic terminus with a likely further closure of the line at the Centro boundary. Again the proposal was fought off by local campaigners. Today Stratford upon Avon remains a terminus, yet in still within sight of the Cotswold Line to where it no longer reaches.
Despite it’s terminus status one has to admire and appreciate the effort of those campaigners back in the 1960’s and 1980’s that fought off the complete demise of rail services to and from a town that enjoys international recognition but also has a growing and vibrant local population. Twelveyears after the last attempt to close Stratford’s railway line in 1984, some 437,942 passenger journeys were made to and from the town and reported by the Office of Rail Regulation. The latest figures for 2013/14 show a 125% increase since 1996/7 with some 986,542 passenger journeys reported.Despite the growth in passenger usage that clearly should dispel any further ideas at closure
Stratford upon Avon remains hamstrung by its terminus status. The percentage of tourist visitors to the town by rail at around 6% is half that of the national average. This demonstrates the potential further growth that exists but is likely to be only realised by the town once more becoming a through route linked to the Cotswold Line south at Honeybourne.
The opposition to SWO
Opposition to the reinstatement within the precincts of town has involved a small number of residents and initially their objections were understandable. However, the feasibility study completed by Arup in 2012 assuaged much of their specific concerns with a proposed cutting and tunnel to access Stratford station from the south, albeit on the existing alignment that was in use as a railway until 1976.
The SWO campaign is happy to support proposals to cover the alignment of route with a tunnel in the Evesham Place and Sanctus areas. Consequently, the campaign does not see the issue as a major reason to oppose SWO given the greater benefits it would realise to the town and district.
Two computer simulations provide an even more profound demonstration of how reinstatement can be achieved with minimum loss of amenity. Consideration of reinstatement should not be unduly influenced by a small, but vociferous, minority who may choose to oppose what would be a significant benefit to the town whatever mitigation is offered.
The issue of a single track railway alongside the Greenway was envisaged from the outset after closure of the double track railway from Stratford to Cheltenham in August 1976. The establishment of The Greenway went hand in hand with the accommodation for the potential restoration of a railway line, whether it be a preserved railway or as part of the national network, The two things are not incompatible, indeed, there are many footpaths across the UK that run parallel with railways providing great amenity and attracting much use, not least walks along the sea wall at places such as Teignmouth. Reinstatement of the link by construction of a single track railway does not pose any risk to The Greenway and were it combined with a new station at Long Marston it would enable many to walk or cycle in one direction and return by train in the other.
The campaign for SWO wishes to see the Greenway maintained and given that this is perfectly feasible sees no reason why the Greenway is a reason to oppose SWO