the Transport Secretary, Mr Patrick McLoughlin, recently announced the Government was prepared to provide 75% funding for returning old railway stations to use or providing new ones. This is an opportunity we must seize.
Since the restoration of the Ribble Valley rail passenger service on May 30th, 1994, very few improvements have been made to increase usage.
Network Rail have now announced there will be two trains an hour by the end of 2016 – validation indeed of the campaign to save the railway from complete closure.
However, these benefits will mean nothing to the citizens of Billington and Chatburn. We must act now to ensure all of the Ribble Valley can enjoy the unique attractions a quality rail service can bring.
The Aire Valley route from Skipton to Shipley was proposed for complete closure under the Marples/Beeching regime, but survived against the odds. Today the minimum service is four trains an hour, six at peak hours of mostly four/five car electric units, providing eight times the capacity of the Ribble Valley service but serving a lower population, and still there are complaints of overcrowding.
Network Rail have recently allocated £1m. for improving Skipton station alone.
So how did this remarkable turnaround happen?
The MPs, councillors and local authorities along the Aire Valley worked with British Rail, as it was then, and the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority to provide a better service, opening four stations in eight years; Crossflatts in 1982, Saltaire in 1984, Cononley in 1988 and Steeton/Silsden in 1990.
Two additional platforms were also provided at Shipley.
Each new station brought rising passenger numbers, resulting in an improved level of service.
If Ribble Valley Borough Council and Lancashire County Council worked with Network Rail to provide stations at Billington, Clitheroe South (near the Mitchell Street car park) and Chatburn (off Downham Road), Northern Rail could collect up to £800,000 in additional revenue with only minor modifications to the existing service.
Mr McLoughlin wants to see what he calls “shovel-ready” projects. A Clitheroe South station, with three ready-made car parks nearby, would be an easy and quick project and would serve a huge residential area of town.
If Ribble Valley Borough Council and Lancashire County Council joined forces to change the face of public transport in Ribble Valley forever, they would recover their 25% of the cost in just one year and achieve savings in bus subsidies of £150,000 a year. What is there to lose?
What do our councillors or prospective councillors think? This issue is too important to ignore.