Council and business bosses are calling on the Government for more details about the decision to re-open the Stoke to Leek railway line – as well asking for a funding plan and time scale to be shared.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday that the reinstatement of the line was among local transport improvement projects to be funded following the scrapping of the northern leg of HS2.
Mr Sunak said that all £36 billion saved from not proceeding with Phase 2 from Birmingham to Manchester, via Crewe, would be spent on transport schemes across the West Midlands and North.
In 2022, partners – including Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council – developed an outline business case for reconnecting Leek to the national rail network by reinstating services on the line.
This followed a successful £50,000 bid to the Restoring Your Railways fund in 2021 to carry out a feasibility study into re-opening the route.
The District Council has cautiously welcomed the fact new train services could return to the Moorlands town but has asked for more detail.
Council Leader Mike Gledhill, said: “The Council welcomes the announcement regarding the proposed Leek to Stoke rail link. We now need to see what the specific funding package involves and how the Government proposes to future proof the scheme against inflation and other factors.
“We hope to hear soon about details of timescales, planning implications and operational matters so that we can be assured of the viability of the project, its impact and sustainability.”
Councillor Gledhill added: “The creation of an upgraded network of public transport across the Moorlands is a priority for the Council.
“The rail link has the potential to be a significant part of that alongside much needed improvements to bus services across our three towns and the rural areas to meet local needs, boost our local economy and improve our quality of life.”
Similarly, the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council has written to Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper calling for clarity on funding and a timeline.
Councillor Jane Ashworth also made the point that while she cautiously welcomed the Stoke to Leek rail line, improved and additional bus services shouldn’t be overlooked as they would have a positive impact for people.
Tom Nadin, Head of Projects and Business Services at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, added: “A comprehensive funding plan and clear and transparent timescales for the Stoke to Leek line are crucial to ensuring the region’s transportation needs are met. As our communities grow, so does the need for efficient and sustainable transportation links.”
The original Leek to Stoke line was opened in 1864 but passenger services were slashed as part of the Beeching Cuts in the 1960s.
Freight trains continued to run on the line to reach quarries at Cauldon Lowe and Oakamoor up until the late 1980s.
The existing mothballed route runs from Stoke Station (where it could connect to the West Coast mainline), via Fenton, Bucknall (next to Lime Kiln bank), Milton, Stockton Brook, Endon and through to Leek.
The re-opening of the line is part of re-allocation of HS2 funding plans reported in Daily Focus. It would also see a new station built at Meir and the refurbishment of Longton and Kidsgrove stations, and major road schemes including enhancements to the A5, A50/A500 corridor, M1 and M6.