Rail campaigners have condemned the short sighted lack of vision of the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA). It is about to approve its development "master plan" for Ashburton which would allow building over the track bed of the former railway line, creating considerable obstacles for a future reopening.
"Today, railways across the South West are experiencing huge growth in passenger numbers, but the authorities idea of "vision" is to lock Ashburton out of this forever" said Gerard Duddridge of the campaign group Railfuture "Instead we have the same-old idea of more shops, houses and car parks. The authority seems to be running scared of the developers, but there's plenty of space for new developments, we're just asking for a thin strip of land to be kept clear so that the railway can be put back at some point in the future. Surely, anything described as a "master plan" would be keeping options open, not closing them off"
"Reinstating the railway would only require about two and a half miles of new track, and although the A38 at Buckfastleigh presents an obstacle, it is not insurmountable. If we can build new roads for a bypass for a town, then we can build a railway"
"There's also future potential to run some public railway services as well as steam heritage trains. Ashburton and Buckfastleigh together have future potential to support a daily rail service to Plymouth, maybe once every 2 hours. This would open up employment, educational and leisure opportunities for local residents going to Plymouth and also give them convenient access to London and northbound trains at Totnes. Heritage steam services to Ashburton would bring tourists to the local shops and cafes."
"Unfortunately the DNPA lack this vision. All we want is to futureproof the land so that we can get the railway back at reasonable cost"
"Today, Newcourt station opened on the Avocet Line, demonstrating that opening stations is the way forward. Sadly some parts of Devon seem condemned to go backwards"
Notes to editors:
Ashburton lost its railway service to Buckfastleigh and Totnes in 1962. Ashburton was not included when the line reopened as a heritage steam railway in 1969, as the trackbed was required to cut the cost of building the A38 Exeter to Plymouth dual carriageway road.
Railfuture is the UK's leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight.
Railfuture's website can be found at: www.railfuture.org.uk
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For further information and comment please contact:
Bruce Williamson, national spokesman
Tel: 0117 927 2954 Mobile: 07759 557389
media at railfuture.org.uk
Gerard Duddridge, Devon and Cornwall branch chair:
gerard.duddridge at railfuture.org.uk