ACTION STATIONS - Please can we have a green light to re-open the station that Beeching closed over 60yrs ago. Some 20 years ago The Halcrow Rail Study experts surveyed the Stroudwater Urban Corridor population from Stroud to Stonehouse. They also contacted the businesses & enterprises in the Business Parks next to the old station. The Managers welcomed the idea of direct services to and from Bristol and beyond. Since then the jobs growth in the smaller canal-side SMEs & businesses near the station suggests that c.6000 workers need not rely on a car to get to work or on business.

Other benefits would also accrue to many companies. Readers of Ian Mean's Business Column in the SNJ will know of his support for giving skilled and hi-tech workers direct mainline access to & from Bristol and its extended network. As an experienced Director of Business West based in Bristol Ian has a clear view of the future. The development of new skills should attract apprentices and students to the hi-tech, new-tech and skilled manufacturers, and then broadening their research via high value inter-connections to Bristol and the South West. Currently The Stroudwater Corridor is home to high performance schools, and the SGS shares a campus at Filton, and yet direct rail services to Bristol are non-existent.

Equally significant is the population growth at Great Oldbury and elsewhere in Stonehouse within walk/cycle distance for c.4000 'new' residents, and more planned. The Stroudwater Corridor population is now approaching 60,000, making It the biggest catchment area on the main line from the East Midlands to S.Devon with no direct services to its Regional Capital & Network Hub. The station will also be an inwards gateway to the many attractions of the restored canal, Dale Vince's stadium (visiting fans find trains more sociable!), and his nearby EcoPark. Meanwhile, Stroud Town Centre is being transformed and improved with business investment just a short bus ride to the station. 'Green' access to/from Bristol & beyond would echo the historic trading connections.

My railway interests began in post-war Gloucester and then developed at school and university. I applied to BR and joined the complex Southern Region network just as the Beeching Axe was being wielded. This was the first phase of a broad 30yr career helping to run, research & revive BR & SR services. After retiring I left Sussex and came "Home" to Stonehouse, where I noted its strong support to re-open Bristol Rd station. It was a clear 'no-brainer', but the County Council didn't agree. 9 yrs ago I joined a small working group of Stonehouse Town Councillors. They knew the important local planning and socio-economic factors, whilst I could add trip generation forecasts and details from my background of rail operations, research and planning. Here are a few key examples :-

# c.65% of passengers walk or cycle from within 1.5-2.0 miles of a station. Population density is critical; car park use rarely exceeds c.15%; regular bus connections can take +/-10% of passengers. # interchanges reduce passenger demand. Service frequency can increase demand.

# journeys to work are now fewer than leisure/social journeys after recent changes in work patterns; #journeys from elsewhere can increase revenue as well as reducing carbon emissions.

# when a new station is part of a network an 'added value' is created by the new inter-connections.

An analysis of passenger numbers before Covid showed that our County is almost the lowest generator of rail journeys of any English Shire County whilst the City was by far the worst County Town in England. The County has few stations, 5 serving low density rural areas, and just 3 urban centres. The busiest is Cheltenham thanks to its business leaders being aware that busy, regular local events attract large numbers of inward visitors. Meanwhile the Stroudwater Corridor's business and population growth and revenue potential has been sadly neglected. It is worth noting that events, leisure and social travel can create high value economic gains in populous areas. A business economist would recognise Bristol as one of the best such examples.

This prompts a mention of the long term WESTERN GATEWAY project and its creation of a 'super network' with Bristol at its hub. Already in place is the East- West link between Swindon to Swansea and the ambition is for a South-North axis to Birmingham which could be from ,say, Bridgwater, Bristol via our Stroudwater station amongst others. There is also a link from Newport to Gloucester. A further aim is electrification where viable. It will take many years and many £.billion to come to fruition but the cost effective benefits for Glos suggest that re-opening our "Beeching" station in association with Western Gateway could be an affordable 'Win/Win' for a busy rail network that also minimises carbon emissions. Dare I suggest that with HS2 becoming "HS1.5" our enhanced network could become a valued southwestern off-shoot from the Birmingham hub!

Finally I would add that my railway experience was greatest in the 1970s - a period of national strikes, inflation, soaring interest rates and a reduced rail system. It is ironic that we are now suffering an almost identical period of 'National Groundhog Days', with Beeching's Ghost still lurking on the railways. Nearly 4 years ago the Government announced the Restoring Your Railways scheme to reinstate suitable stations and lines closed some 60yrs ago. With the timely co-operation of the Stroud District Planning Team and the Stonehouse working party we made a comprehensive bid to restore our station. We also appreciated Siobhan Baillie's help for carrying out her first MP duty of making quite sure that the DfT received our Bid on the appropriate desk ahead of the deadline set by the Minister.

The current economic and political turmoil has turned funding into a 'mirage' for this and many other projects. This is such a pity as the cost of reopening our station is relatively low, whilst the value of its latent demand yields one of the highest potential revenues and network benefits. I can only repeat my conclusion of 10 years ago :- It is a 'No Brainer'.