Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 16:03 UK

Dorset MP in appeal over rail works funding deadline

Jim Knight
Mr Knight said the funding would have to be found regionally

A Labour MP has appealed for an extension to help secure £3m to upgrade a rural railway line in South Dorset.

The Swanage Railway Trust has applied for funding so Network Rail can connect the Swanage line to the main network.

Network Rail has set a deadline to receive the funds by the end of April but Jim Knight has asked for it to be extended until after the election.

Lib Dem candidate Ros Kayes said the £3m was hugely important. Tory candidate Richard Drax also backed it.

The funding is needed to cover the modernisation of the line's junction with the mainline at Worgret, Dorset, so it can connect to the main rail network.

However the deadline to secure the money is looming. Mr Knight wants an extension because of what he called a "period of uncertainty" over government funding until after the general election.

The line has been cut off since 1972 and supporters argue that re-opening it would greatly ease road congestion.

Future expansion

Mr Knight said any funding needed below £5m would have to come via Dorset County Council or through regional government agencies.

He said: "Last week, I wrote to the head of Network Rail so they could go beyond the period of uncertainty inevitable around the general election.

Corfe Castle station
The rail line improves access to Corfe Castle

"Hopefully we will be able to quickly secure the money from regional priorities or the local county council."

Ms Kayes said securing the money was "hugely important" for an area that was quite cut off.

On Monday her party set out plans to reopen thousands of miles of railway lines and stations across the UK.

"There are huge road problems in the summer because it's a major tourist route, there are people in the town who want to be environmentally aware and they have been deprived of that."

Richard Drax, Conservative parliamentary candidate, said he was "very keen" to get the upgrade.

"I have written to the transport minister but unfortunately there is no money, they said the money should come from the south west regional pot," he said.

"But they said there are already 50 priorities on the list and Swanage Railway is not one of them.

"It is unlikely, sadly, that the money will come from there. At local level, councils have looked at it, but for all sorts of reasons are unable to fund it - either legally or financially."

The Swanage Railway Trust said if the £3m was not found the chances of the junction being upgraded were remote.

The funding would allow for vital re-signalling work to take place so regular passenger-trains service can resume from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage.

Steve Doughty, chairman of the Swanage Railway Trust, said: "Indeed, in the longer term, the existing arrangements may well become obsolete and as such we could find ourselves being cut off from the network completely."

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