A NEW SIX-MILE STEAM LINE FOR MANCHESTER?
A CHESHIRE LINES RAILWAY TRUST IS TO BE FORMED
A proposal to restore a six-mile section of derelict railway line between Irlam and West Timperley, closed to passengers in 1964, could pave the way for the establishment of a new preserved railway. The project was launched on March 28 by businessman and telecom company TalkTalk founder Neil McArthur, alongside former Minister of State for Transport and television presenter Michael Portillo, at the community facility that has been established in the restored Irlam station building. The scheme is being spearheaded by Mr McArthur through his Hamilton Davies Trust, which aims to support communities in the area. Meanwhile, a Cheshire Lines Railway Trust is to be established to oversee the restoration of the line. Key to the proposals is the restoration of the imposing Cadishead Viaduct, which spans the Manchester Ship Canal but is in poor condition, having been out of use since the line was closed to freight traffic in 1984. It is anticipated that without restoration, the main span of the viaduct will need to be removed in the next decade and, if that happens, it would make the cost of restoring the line prohibitive. Furthermore, Network Rail is believed to be unwilling to sell the trackbed of the route, even though it does not feature in any of their plans for reopening in the future. Mr McArthur believes that a medium to long-term lease could be secured to allow the line to be restored, at a cost of around £25 million to £30 million. He did accept that there would be a risk, if NR eventually took back control of the line in the future, but he stated that there could still be scope for preservation operations. He told Steam Railway that between his organisation and its partnerships with other parties, the necessary funding to restore the line could be secured. A report outlining the plan has been produced and this is being studied by Trafford and Salford councils, who both understand the potential for bringing tourists into the area, along with Transport for Greater Manchester and NR. The project would also involve the national cycling charity Sustrans, and the trackbed is wide enough to allow cycle paths and walking routes to be accommodated alongside a rebuilt railway. Mr McArthur has observed the success of the nearby East Lancashire Railway. He believes there is sufficient demand for another preserved line in the North West and partnerships have been formed between his organisation and the ELR. At the launch event, Michael Portillo said: “I look forward to the day when I can return here and walk, or travel behind a steam locomotive over the Cadishead Viaduct, and I wish the project every success.”
A computer-generated image of how Cadishead Viaduct could look following restoration, with a footpath and cycleway alongside the preserved railway. Restoration of this structure is key to the success of the proposals. HAMILTON DAVIES TRUST Television politician Michael Portillo and Neil McArthur stand outside the restored Irlam station building at the launch of the project on March 28 2017. presenter and former ANDY COWARD