March 2022 – The magnificent seven?

Is it time for some cautious optimism regarding the Restoring your Railway Fund (RRF) and whether it really can kick-start some serious rail reopenings? The recent Okehampton reopening shows that it can be done, albeit – in that case – involving the upgrade of an existing freight line. So, what next? The New Civil Engineer claims that no fewer than seven lines are, erm, in line to reopen. Elsewhere in this section, there is a report on the Levenmouth Link in Fife, which is set to follow the Dartmoor line as the second RRF success. Meanwhile, some work has been reported in Newsham, Northumberland, allegedly in preparation for the reintroduction of passenger services between Ashington and Newcastle. The other five proposals, however, range from the hopeful to the downright unrealistic.

The most likely of these is the Varsity Line, from Oxford to Cambridge. East West Rail is pushing ahead to Bletchley and the talk is of continuing on to Bedford, and eventually Cambridge. Time will tell. The Okehampton success might also just nudge the Bere Alston to Tavistock project over the line. But two lines mentioned by the NCE are in the pie-in-the-sky category: Stratford-on-Avon to Honeybourne, and York to Beverley. The former has a road on part of the alignment, while the second has to negotiate housing estates in Market Weighton.

The seventh and final line should have been the easiest of the lot, yet has become the longest non-starter of all such projects: Portishead. And now there’s talk of a busway… (New Civil Engineer; RR)