Plans to restore the rail link between Stoke-on-Trent and the town of Leek have been highlighted as a key element of the regeneration of North Staffordshire.
The Moorland & City Railways Reconnect Leek project to re-open the 10 miles of railway line between Stoke and Leek, and re-introduce a regular public service, has been featured in the newly formed "Northern Gateway Partnership" agreement between seven local authorities in the Cheshire and North Staffordshire region.
This joint initiative between the various authorities focuses on unlocking the economic benefits for when the planned HS2 high speed rail line reaches the region, but according to a leading councillor, the Stoke to Leek line is just as vital.
“I am totally behind linking Leek with Stoke-on-Trent and the national rail network once again, and I think we should now push forward with this project as quickly as possible,” said Sybil Ralphs, leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, one of the Northern Gateway partners.
“It will bring huge benefits to the Moorlands, both in terms of employment and tourism, and I intend to do everything in my power to make sure it happens. I have discussed this with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and I’m 110% sure of their support for the project, too,” continued Councillor Ralphs.
“Churnet Valley Railway has achieved so much progress over the years and now, working with Moorland & City Railways, I believe even more can be achieved. We should be looking to re-open the line again in the next two to three years and certainly before HS2 reaches the region.”
Councillor Ralphs agreed that there was a need to expedite planning and access issues surrounding the project’s first crucial stage, the creation of a new station in Leek. The Churnet Valley Railway currently operates services to Leekbrook Junction, just short of a mile from the town, but it is planned to extend North along the original trackbed from Leekbrook to reach a new station in Leek. The site of the station has already been agreed as part of a local redevelopment for the Barnside Industrial estate in the town.
Moorland & City Railways director Greg Wilson said he was pleased to receive the new backing for the plan. “Restoring the rail link between the Staffordshire Moorlands and Stoke-on-Trent is a long-held dream for many people and we are moving towards it becoming a reality,” he said.
“However first we need to lay less than a mile of track and build the new station for Leek, and I welcome Councillor Ralph’s wholehearted support in resolving the remaining issues which are holding progress up.”