Feasibility Study for Line Extension
The proposed site of the new station at Cannards Grave looking towards Mendip Vale Station. Inset - the possible route
Credit: Gavin Moore, 25 March 2007
The East Somerset Railway has been awarded a ?7,500 grant to conduct a feasibility study into extending the heritage line into Shepton Mallet. ESR Chairman Richard Masters told a meeting of working members held at Cranmore on the 24 February that ?this is excellent news for the ESR as it is a key step towards achieving this long held ambition and it offers a great opportunity for the railway?s future.? The extension is seen as a key part of the railway?s development with the longer running length (approximately ? mile) and a station in an urban location acting as boost to tourism in the area.
The grant has been awarded by the Shepton 21 Group, an organisation set up to explore ways to regenerate the town of Shepton Mallet through the ?Market & Coastal Towns Initiative? set up by the South West Regional Development Agency. They have recognised the benefits that the line extension would bring and it is high on their list of objectives for the area. The ESR also fully supports Shepton 21`s aim to link the line extension with other schemes to form a visitor and travel centre, based on a new station site and which would further encourage local tourism.
The grant award is the result of discussions over the last 12 months to give fresh impetus to the proposed extension and is a result of regular meetings with representatives from Shepton 21?s ?Links Task Group?, neighbouring landowners, the East Somerset Railway and Mendip District Council. The study will investigate the technical feasibility of creating such an extension and the approximate construction cost and legal framework necessary to the successful delivery of this project. Key to the successful outcome is the appointment of Atkins Rail to conduct the study and is a reflection of their significant experience in this field.
In conjunction with the Shepton 21 Group and Mendip District Council, a range of options for the line extension have been developed and considered and the final choice is the construction of a new route from the ESR`s existing terminus at Mendip Vale and deviating to the south from the original formation and taking a new path across agricultural land to a new site at the Cannards Grave roundabout. Here ample space is available for the development of a site that will house not just a new station but also other attractions sympathetic to the heritage concept and tourist aims of the varying stakeholders to the project. This route also offers the best possibility for a further extension of the line onwards to Wells in the future. The long held aim to return to the original ESR Shepton Mallet station is now no longer feasible with the land now earmarked for non railway development and the formation between Mendip Vale and the town centre breached in a number of places. The key advantages of the new route have been identified as follows:-
- It could function as, and create a new tourist attraction close to Cannards Grave and the new housing developments to the south-east of the town.
- The convenient location alongside the main A37 road between Bath and Bristol to the north and to the A303 to the south offers excellent visibility to passing trade.
- It retains the potential for future line extension to Wells.
- Its location provides easy access and use of the former Somerset & Dorset Route as a safe pedestrian or cycle route to the Bath & West showground and into Evercreech village.
- It offers sufficient space to construct a range of tourist attractions adjacent to the station.
- The location, mid-way between Shepton Mallet and the Bath and West Showground, will offer possibilities for the use of the new station as part of a public transport hub for a range of uses either for charter trains to the Bath & West Showground or for other local transport connections.
Atkins Rail will focus on the following aspects of the extension as part of their study:-
- Identification of the optimum route to include optimum location for continuation of line to Wells.
- Identification of the main construction tasks.
- Budgetary costs for construction work including a run round loop and two platforms approximately 100m long.
- An indication of the legal steps required and associated budgetary costs.
- A geotechnical desk-study report based on reference to the local geological map and memoir, available borehole logs, and an Environmental Impact Assessment.
- A check and acknowledgement of any potential archaeological sensitivities.
Dick Masters concludes that ?the line extension is an exciting project which will require a partnership between the many differing stakeholders and offer significant potential benefits for all the community. The ESR therefore hopes it will attract the widest interest and support and looks forward to being able to announce detailed proposals in the not too distant future.? The report is due to be finalised in April 2007 and will be the subject of a further press release at that time.
News item added on 25th March 2007, by GM
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