Support from local businesses will be essential to creating a case to open a new railway station in Stoke-on-Trent, according to Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce.
The Chamber is set to develop a strategic outline case for a new station at Etruria Valley, close to the newly-opened Etruria Valley Link Road.
It believes the station could be a “game-changer” for local businesses, making them more attractive and accessible, and would also help to “unlock” the area.
During an event for the business community yesterday, delegates were told of a vision for the station to be a local one to capture the travel-to-work market, as well as being used by Festival Park shoppers, people using the nearby leisure facilities and those staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Stoke-on-Trent.
There is also said to be a demand for the station from people from Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Businesses are being encouraged to get behind the proposals to help build and strengthen the case in order to persuade a public sector sponsor or sponsors to come forward.
When asked about how long it could take for the station to come to life, Lee White, Managing Director of Stone-based specialist transport planning practice Sterling Transport Consultancy, said: “The key is finding a public sector sponsor or sponsors.
“In terms of physically building the station, that would take about a year. But with everything else involved, we’re realistically looking at three to four years.”
He added: “There is nothing in rail terms that we can see that would prevent us from delivering a local station at this point.”
It is estimated that creating a strategic outline case will cost between £10,000 and £15,000.
Businesses have been asked to help with lobbying, funding and pro-bono support.
The proposed station would be about a mile further north of the former Etruria Station, which closed in 2005.
Delegates were told that that station is unlikely to be capable of opening again, with a figure of £4 to £5 million put on the estimated cost of realigning the track to be able to bring it back into use.
It is expected the Etruria Valley Station – on land believed to be in public ownership – would have two six-car platforms, a car park and station facilities but is likely to be unstaffed.
Initial expectations are for it to be served by at least one train an hour, but those in attendance were told it would “probably” be two in the very near future and possibly more.
Mike Herbert, Chair of the Chamber’s Transport Forum, said: “The great thing about the Etruria Valley proposal is where it is sited. We always wanted the Etruria Valley Link Road to get built by the northern access to the Festival Park development areas and it’s logical now to provide an additional transport hub.
“There is a significant number of people who work here, some of whom are here today and have invested in new facilities in Etruria. We should now provide improved transport facilities.
“Of course, it will also provide relief to the A53 and A500 corridors. And it will add as a further regeneration tool for remaining undeveloped land.”
Chamber Policy Adviser Declan Riddell added: “If people have got the capability of being able to come in by train, everyday it unlocks the potential of the area and most importantly gets cars off the road.”
The event was held at the Chambers’ Commerce House headquarters and those in attendance included representatives from firms including Bet365, Overclockers, Dains Accountants, National Veterinary Services and Handelsbanken.