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(head)Historic agreement paves way for Oswestry passenger trains
(standfirst)Members vote for umbrella body to deliver project
Passenger trains could return to Oswestry next year – if plans by the Cambrian Heritage Railways Project are successful.
The news follows a landmark agreement after members of the Cambrian Railways Society (CRS) and Cambrian Railways Trust (CRT) voted almost unanimously to work towards unifying the two groups at an EGM at the Old Station in Oswestry on November 20.
A newly created umbrella body, Cambrian Heritage Railways Ltd (CHR), will deliver the project. This development has been co-ordinated by the Cross Border Tourism Development Group (CBTDG) on behalf of Shropshire Council, with the intention of seeing a fully operational heritage railway operating out of Oswestry within the next five years.
As a result of the vote, CRS and CRT members have now automatically become members of CHR Ltd, while directors have been appointed from both groups.
Nigel Davies of the CBTDG and acting chairman of the new Cambrian Heritage Railways Ltd said: “The potential economic impact of a return of steam to Oswestry and its surrounding area is of course substantial. Towns such as Bridgnorth and Llangollen are perfect examples of how important developments such as this are to the local economy and there is now a real desire to work together as a team to achieve this.” Mr Davies continued: “The fact the vote was unanimous is a clear indication that the members of both organisations are tired of the past disagreements and want to see trains in Oswestry once again.”
Henry Thomas, chairman of the CRT said: “The Trust and Society have been working together on an informal basis for some time. A strong relationship has been formed. This agreement formalizes that relationship.” Rob Williams, CRS chairman said: “This vote means members have given their approval for negotiations to be progressed. It’s given the respective directors a clear mandate to work towards a merger.
“However, the key phrase is ‘work towards’ a full merger of members and assets. A full formal merger will be the subject future meetings.” Explaining just some of the practical benefits, Mr Williams said: “The Trust has got a yard full of coaches while the Society owns a yard full of locomotives.” Mr Thomas added: “Other benefits will include reduced administration costs and the sharing of expertise and resources.”
As discussed earlier, it is hoped passenger trains will run on Sundays in the middle of Oswestry next year. Significantly, it is planned to use a restored section of platform outside the station building, with trains running the length of the old platform down to Middleton Road bridge – a distance of almost half a mile. Services will be operated by 0-4-0 diesel locomotives ‘Telemon’ and ‘Scottie’, while passengers will be accommodated in a restored LMS brakevan (M732435).
The train service will complement the free-to-enter Cambrian Railways Museum, which houses a delightful collection of artefacts from across the former Cambrian Railways system and which is often described as a ‘traditional’ museum. Also on site is the restored, fully functioning Oswestry South Signalbox, renovated in 2005/6, principally using volunteer labour.
Joint ticketing will be available with the existing steam and DMU services at Llynclys.
Volunteer efforts are currently being directed at Oswestry, preparing the site for regular passenger trains. This includes vegetation clearance and upgrading trackwork.
# Any offers of assistance would be most appreciated. Visit http://www.cambrianrailwayssociety.co.uk/ or call Ken Owen on 07802 880 263.
Notes to editors
# Photographs for publication are available upon request - both people and locomotive-related. Please contact the press officer.
# Having last seen regular freight traffic in 1988/9, the line from Gobowen through Oswestry to Llynclys Junction and onwards to Blodwell quarry was mothballed.
# In early July 2008 Shropshire County Council announced that it had exchanged contracts with Network Rail for the acquisition of the Gobowen - Blodwel railway line.
# A formal lease was signed in April 2009 for two parts of the line to be let to the respective preservation groups.
# Under the terms of the agreement, the Cambrian Railways Trust (CRT) would operate the line from Oswestry to Llynclys, where it would meet its existing operation from Llynclys South to Penygarreg Lane, on the edge of Pant, while the Cambrian Railways Society (CRS) would run the remaining stub of the former Tanat Valley Railway from Llynclys Junction to Blodwel via Porthywaen. Both local railway groups would deliver the project under the umbrella banner of 'Cambrian Heritage Railways'.
# The re-opening of the railway will boost tourism in the area, bringing a hosts of benefits to local businesses, including shops, pubs and bead & breakfast establishments. Links will be improved to the Montgomery Canal, the Llanymynech Heritage Area, and other nearby attractions.
# Following more than nine months of negotiations, members of both organisations voted to deliver the project under an umbrella organisation – Cambrian Heritage Railways Ltd on Friday November 20, 2009.
# Members of the Society and Trust have now automatically joined Cambrian Heritage Railways Ltd.
# Volunteers are currently engaged in clearing the line of vegetation. Track work is also being upgraded in and around Oswestry in readiness for regular passenger trains.
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