When I started this site a decade ago or so, the future of the Vale's railways was perhaps not a positive as it is today. Only
the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway was making any obvious progress; the Cotswold Line was forever being subject to suggestions
of redoubling, which tended to die away when the issue of cost was raised. There was talk of relaying the line south of
Stratford-upon-Avon back to Honeybourne, but that was all it ever remained - talk (I'll come back to this subject later).
So what might the future hold for the "Railways of the Vale of Evesham"?
As far as the Redditch to Ashchurch and Stratford and
Midland Junction Railways are concerned, they are almost certainly gone forever. The trackbed of the former has been too
heavily developed, especially in the Evesham and Redditch areas to render it impossible to re-open it as a through route (a few short
sections might be possible to re-open , but they are probably of no real practical use). The trackbed of the latter is
perhaps not so heavily developed, but the Stratford Southern Relief Road would seem to render a connection to Stratford station extremely
difficult if not impossible, and without this, I don't think there would be much point in re-opening this line.
the recent redoubling of parts of the Cotswold Line should go some way to increasing traffic and reducing the knock-on effects of
late-running trains. It perhaps says much about the line that the work went ahead, despite the economic situation at the
time, so I don't think we should criticise the fact too much that the line from Oxford to Worcester wasn't completely redoubled.
However, I do think that the remaining single line sections need to be redoubled, especially if the long-discussed "Worcester(shire)
Parkway" station finally gets the go-ahead and if the proposals to re-open the line from Stratford to Honeybourne are serious, and
I have not heard anything to say that this is not possible. As of 2016, it is looking more positive that at least some of the
line between Evesham and Worcester will be redoubled, although probably not before the Parkway station is built.
on to the Stratford to Cheltenham line, since I started this site, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway has re-opened to Cheltenham
Racecourse, and has public services running to Laverton, with Broadway almost within their grasp. Despite the double landslip
of 2010, the railway remains optimistic about future development, and I don't immediately see any obvious reason as to why the railway
line cannot be restored from Broadway to Honeybourne; the trackbed doesn't seem to have any major development on it.
GW-R extend further into Cheltenham? From what be can seen on the aeriel views, the trackbed is mostly in place from Cheltenham Racecourse
to Lansdowne, and although I don't believe it is being seriously considered at present, I don't believe it has been entirely ruled
out either. My understanding is that the GW-R want a mainline link, and that they consider Honeybourne to be the best option at present.
If an extension to Honeybourne is not possible, then maybe extending to Lansdowne might be given further consideration (A proposal
to extend further south is under consideration as of early 2016).
Which brings me to the question of Honeybourne to Stratford,
which has been a topic of several debates over the last few years, the latest being in October 2012. From the point of view
of restoring the section as a heritage railway, Honeybourne to Long Marston is still in place, and from what I've seen of
the "Greenway" path from Milcote to Stratford, it looks like it could support a single line railway from Long Marston to Stratford
Racecourse (ok, a run-round at the latter would be required, and Milcote or Long Marston being used as a passing place, but surely
these aren't insurmountable issues) as well as the foot/cycle path. The trackbed at Long Marston might need a slight deviation
to the west to take it round new buildings though. However, with the Stratford and Broadway railway now off the scene,
unless another organisation takes this over, re-opening this section is probably a couple of decades away (at least) for the Gloucestershire
So, what about the section from Stratford Racecourse to Stratford (Alcester Road)? I've
heard a lot of proposals over the last few years about re-opening the line south from Alcester Road, but none of them seem to deal
with the question of what to do about the Southern Relief Road that was built on the trackbed. Unless there is a fairly
major change in transport policy in the UK, I cannot see this road being torn up to be replaced by a railway, and certainly not by
a private heritage railway. Even if it was, a level crossing at Evesham Road would almost certainly be a cause of
major traffic congestion (in fairness to the GW-R, I don't think they've ever intended to get beyond Stratford Racecourse anyway).
However, it seems that a report published in 2012 (according to Evesham Journal, anyway) suggests that restoring the line from
Stratford to Honeybourne is possible , but the cost is likely to be in the region of 100 million pounds. The idea is to
be able improve services between Worcester and Stratford, and by restoring to the north-to-east loop at Honeybourne Junction, Oxford
to Stratford as well. There are several questions that I would like answered :
1) How is it
proposed to deal with the section between Stratford station and the beginning of the Greenway (see above)?
2) Will the
Greenway be closed?
3) Does the Cotswold Line have the capacity to handle the extra services (I suspect not, at least
not without re-doubling the remain single line sections?)
4) Are provisions going to be made for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire
Railway at Honeybourne?
For the moment, my opinion is that the money would be better off spent on finishing redoubling
the Cotswold Line (assuming that is possible) first, and then revisiting the Stratford branch.
Also, relating slightly
to this section of the line, it seems that the proposed military heritage railway plans for the former Long Marston MOD depot, first
proposed in 2011, will not be going ahead as the owners of the site have decided they want the land for holiday cottages instead.