A NEW SIX-MILE STEAM LINE FOR MANCHESTER?

Steam Railway (UK) - - News - BY ANDY COW­ARD

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

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