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Hunts Post November 05 2003

Let us run the railway

TWO railway companies have said they would operate trains on the disused St Ives to Cambridge line, according to CAST.IRON.

Tim Phillips, chairman of CAST.IRON, the organisation formed to get the line re-opened, said it was excellent news.

He was further pleased that the companies said they would operate trains on the line whether it was owned by Network Rail or a micro-franchise such as CAST.IRON itself.

"They have both said they could not see any reason why they would not be running trains on that line as part of the Greater London network," he said.

The companies, however, were not prepared to be named, Mr Phillips said, because they were actively involved in bids for the Greater Anglia Franchise. The bid for lines running out of Liverpool Street and to the east of the region will be announced in April 2004.

Mr Phillips said the companies would want to use the line if they get the franchise because they would see it as extending their network.

CAST.IRON believes that if they can change Cambridgeshire County Council's mind on the guided bus system and opt instead for re-opening the railway line, then eventually the line could be extended to Huntingdon creating an even bigger network. The line is still owned by Network Rail and is classed as operational,

The news comes just as the rail organisation is about to start a series of public meetings about its plans. The first was due to be held in Cambridge yesterday (Tuesday) evening. Others are being held on November 11 at Histon Junior School, on November 19 at Swavesey Village College, and on November 25 at the Burgess Hall, St Ives.

One of the reasons that re-opening the railway line was turned down by the multi-modal study CHUMMS was that it would be too costly. But Mr Phillips claims that in relation to other traffic-reducing schemes, reopening the line is a viable proposition.

As yet, CAST.IRON has not produced costings on reopening the nine-mile line. These are expected in December. But it is believed that a 10-mile line recently relaid in the Lake District cost 6 million, which included costs to provide alternative transport while the work was being carried out.

CAST.IRON is also inspired by the Wensleydale Railway, 12 miles of line which was reopened in July after 50 years, entirely thanks to community effort.

Mr Phillips said they have had a civil engineer working on a study to see how clearing the line of vegetation would be carried out. He said that they have found out it would cost about 100,000 and could take place over nine days.

Although CAST.IRON is run by volunteers, it counts professional experts and people who advise the rail industry among its number. They are working to persuade members of the county council not to back a proposal for a Transport and Work Act to Government for the guided bus system and work instead in partnership with them on making the St Ives to Cambridge Railway a possibility.

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