Parish councillor wants to bring back Offords railway station
- Credit: Archant
A FORMER village railway station should be rebuilt and reopened to help St Neots and Huntingdon deal with ever increasing populations and clogged roads.
A parish councillor is pushing for return of Offord and Buckden station more than 50 years after it was closed in 1959.
Offords councillor Bob Bargh said the idea, which has the backing of Huntingdon MP Jonathon Djanogly, is needed more than ever as the district deals with the strain on infrastructure of new housing developments.
Huntingdonshire District Council recently agreed for 750 homes to be built in Godmanchester while 1,000 are planned for NorthBridge between Huntingdon and Great Stukeley, and 4,000 homes are planned in St Neots at Wintringham Farm and Loves Farm.
As well as taking pressure off Huntingdon and St Neots railway stations, the scheme would give Offord D’Arcy and Offord Cluny some public transport which has been virtually non-existent following cuts to subsidised bus services in 2012.
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Cllr Bargh said: “They’ve just approved plans to build another 750 homes in Godmanchester and that is obviously going to have a massive impact.
“The Godmanchester roads and the town bridge are going to be a nightmare with everyone trying to get to the station.
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“We tried to get a campaign going before but our contact at the First Capital Connect (FCC) said the only way we would be able to get the investment for the station is if there was a large increase in house building. We’ve now got that.”
He added: “There’s plenty of land available around the site – there are acres belonging to the railway. There are also two fields about 100 yards away that belong to the village and an old building that used to belong to a wholesale fruit company that could be used.”
There will be a number of hurdles to address – capacity on the line for one and the potential new railway station at Alconbury Weald, where 5,000 houses are planned, would be another.
However, the principle of the idea has support. Mr Djanogly described it as “a very good idea”.
He told The Hunts Post: “I think it would be great for the villages. The villagers and the parish council want to expand the Offords – they realise they have to get a critical mass and they see having a railway station as a way of doing that.
“St Neots and the station get a lot of traffic coming up from Cambourne and people from Godmanchester also go to St Neots because it’s cheaper and they don’t have to go over the Godmanchester bridge.
“It has to be said that this is very much a starting point – it’s not in anyone’s projections at the moment, but campaigns have to start somewhere.”
Barbara Boddington, district councillor for the Offords, said: “With the housing that is coming in this area at Loves Farm, Wintringham, Cambourne and Bearscroft, there’s going to be so much traffic on the A428.
“Anything that could relieve the traffic would be great – it would solve a lot of problems.”
While Network Rail says it has no plans to build a new station, a spokesman said improvements to rail services were planned to allow increased capacity.
“Platforms are being extended, where necessary, to accommodate longer, 12 car trains,” he said. “When the Thameslink programme is complete in 2018, additional trains will be in use and there will be more journey options available.”
FCC added: “Between 2017 and 2019, there will be increasing capacity on St Neots and Huntingdon services as the new Class 700 Thameslink trains come into use.
“We monitor a number of factors along all of our routes to help us meet demand, including major new construction projects. These are taken into account by our train planning team when they update our timetables in May and December.”