Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 17:56 UK

New life for railway station?

By Jo Garvin
BBC News, Shropshire

Baschurch station house
Baschurch's station building is a private house

The savage cuts to Britain's railway network in the 1960s brought an end to the time when most villages and small towns in Shropshire had easy access to local railway stations.

The Beeching report was the death knell for, among many others, Oswestry, Ellesmere, Market Drayton, Much Wenlock and Baschurch.

Now consultations are to begin to try to reopen Baschurch station which, according to the Baschurch Station Group, will benefit the surrounding villages of Ruyton XI Towns, Harmer Hill, Myddle and Bomere Heath.

At a packed public meeting in the village hall, chaired by North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, people voiced their support for the plan.

The MP said he was concerned about the cost, estimated to be about £5m, of reopening the station but agreed it was an interesting project.

He told the meeting it could be useful for people living outside the county town.

Oswestry Railway Station
Oswestry was one of the busiest stations in the county

Mr Paterson said: "One thing that drives me mad is people think when you go to Shropshire, you go to Shrewsbury. For many people, like myself, Shrewsbury is a 40 minute drive away."

Also at the meeting was Margery Ballantyne, from Ruyton XI Towns, a few miles from Baschurch.

She said: "You need a car to get to the station because the buses don't run on Sundays and bank holidays."

Mike Robbins, from Little Ness, who also spoke, agreed the railway was important, but the roads should be considered.

He said: "People want to use the trains and there will be an increase in housing but we must remember people will use the roads as well."

Baschurch Station Group said the current owner of the old Victorian station building, David Janes, supports the plan to reopen the station and would be prepared to sell the building back to a public sector owner for the benefit of the community.

Even if the station is reopened, the largest town in north Shropshire will still be without a railway.

The old Gobeowen sign
Gobowen station survives, but Oswestry is defunct

Oswestry was the biggest casualty of Dr Beeching's axe in the 1960s. At one time it was known as the 'Crewe station' of Shropshire, such was its importance to the local area.

The first of two stations for Oswestry opened in 1848 and signalled a huge expansion of the town. But it was not to last.

The final passenger train pulled out of Oswestry in 1965 and in 1971 the line closed completely.

Gobowen station opened in 1848 linking Shrewsbury and Chester with a loop to Oswestry.

It fell into decline and was threatened with cutbacks in the 1990s but was saved after pupils from nearby Moreton Hall Girls' School, led by their geography master, David Lloyd, took it over.

They restored the station and set up a booking office and travel agency in 1993.

Telford's new rail freight terminal
Telford's new rail freight terminal opened in 2009

The running of the station was taken over by Severn-Dee Travel in 1996 and continues to this day.

Gobowen station is not the only good news story for Shropshire's railways.

Earlier this year a brand new rail freight terminal opened in Telford giving direct access to Britain's rail network and the whole of Europe via the Channel Tunnel.

The development of the International Rail Freight Park involved the re-instatement of about 3km of line between Wellington and Donnington and was first mooted in 2001.

It was partly paid for the European Regional Development Fund and Advantage West Midlands.



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SEE ALSO
Villagers' plea to reopen station
22 Sep 09 |  Shropshire

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