Bids open for new rail station fund

Dr Richard Beeching with his report into Britain's railways Dr Beeching's 1965 report proposed cutting the rail network in order to stem financial losses

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A new fund, which could see stations closed during the Beeching rail cuts of the 1960s reopened, is inviting bids.

The government has set aside a total of £20m to pay for 75% of the cost of either building or renovating stations in England and Wales.

The projects must be "shovel-ready", meaning able to be completed quickly.

Stations such as Wantage Road, Oxon, which was closed to passengers in 1964, and Kenilworth, Warks, which was shut in 1965, are thought to be contenders.

Others include Peterlee, in County Durham, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, and Rushden, Northamptonshire.

The government is encouraging local authorities, train operating companies and developers to apply for the funding.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said proposed new stations must be at a well developed stage and the plans supported by train operating companies and Network Rail.

'Anyone credible'

The fund - which was announced in July last year - is being managed by Network Rail. Bids must be submitted by February 25.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the government was "determined" to improve the railways, and "building new stations will provide that boost".

"We recognise that local communities are often best placed to deliver their own transport solutions and I would therefore encourage anyone with a credible and worthwhile business plan to apply for this vital extra funding," he said.

In 2010 to 2011, the number of train passenger journeys reached record levels, with 1.05 billion in England; 85.9 million in Scotland and 27.3 million in Wales.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger group Passenger Focus, said with the number of rail-users continuing to grow, there was a long-term need to boost the capacity.

"This investment is a good example of what is needed," he said.

"New stations can have a beneficial impact on local communities, so passengers living in those areas will welcome this money."

The Beeching Report of 1963 ushered in an era of significant reduction of the rail network - with about a third closed.

In 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies proposed 14 of the lines closed should be reopened.

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