Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Branch line could be extended for housing

Branch line could be extended for housing

THE Henley branch line could be extended to Ruscombe if plans for 3,500 new houses in Twyford are approved.

The development is one of three large sites put forward in Wokingham Borough Council’s emerging Local Plan, which will earmark sites for housing, business and leisure developments over the next 20 years.

A preliminary transport report on the site, which also covers parts of Ruscombe, says the extra demand placed on Twyford station by the new homes means it might have to be expanded or moved.

Twyford is a terminal on the branch line and relocating the station would require the track to be realigned and services redirected from Henley, the other terminal.

The branch line currently also stops at Shiplake and Wargrave but relocating the station could lead to delays on services as well as costing hundreds of millions of pounds. A tender for master-planning on the Twyford development, which was issued by Wokingham council over the summer, says the station requires “multi-million pound investment” and suggested a replacement parkway station could be built if it was funded by developers.

An options study commissioned by the council in February suggested looking at three options:

⚫ Improving the current station.

⚫ Constructing a new station to the east of Twyford and splitting service between that and the existing station.

⚫ Fully relocating the station and realigning the branch line.

The report initially ruled out relocating or duplicating the station as it was “too complex and expensive” but added that urban developments in the parish could “unlock viability”.

Twyford is also served by the Great Western Railway mainline, providing connections from Henley to Reading, Oxford and London Paddington, while the planned Crossrail development will see two trains per hour stop at the station from December 2019 on the new Elizabeth line.

Rail campaigners say relocating the branch line would be difficult and expensive and would affect the current service on the line for Henley commuters.

Patricia Mulcahy, of the Henley Branch User Group, said: “I heard a vague whiff of this at a meeting about a year ago but it seemed so far-fetched and far away, there was nothing concrete with it.

“Network Rail say they know nothing about it but it me it seems implausible. If a developer is going to build a huge housing development they can’t expect Network Rail to relocate the station. The money for that comes from the Government.

“Developers are not making the kind of profits that they would be able to pay for moving Twyford station.

“We will have to wait and see what happens but I can’t see how there would be enough profit to pay for it.”

Neil Gunnell, of Henley Trains, said: “It would be very difficult to operate as the branch line would need to use the main line for a brief period every time it operated.

“It seems unlikely to me that platform five and the branch line at Twyford would be extended to Ruscombe as the railway bridge and cutting are all in the way.

“A new station at Ruscombe? Quite possibly but really I have no strategic knowledge to comment.”

A transport study commissioned by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership earlier this year said the introduction of Crossrail had not resulted in investment to increase capacity or improve facilities at Twyford station despite the additional demand that the new service will generate.

It said this demand could also be exacerbated by new developments such as the Twyford. One option was to build a larger station “further east” along the main line, close to the proposed development.

A spokesman for Network Rail said there were no plans to make changes to Twyford station or to build a new station on the branch line in the immediate future.

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