Sunday, 10 November 2013


Photo courtesy of Frank Smith and Bill Eaton

This photograph and article also appear on our sister site, The Middlewich Diary

by Dave Roberts

This photograph recently found its way back to the Middlewich Station site by way of Bill Eaton, who was given a lot of material written and collected by the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft, an early contributor to the Middlewich Heritage Society and its Newsletter.
Bill has been passing on various bits of material for publication on the Middlewich Diary and MRLC websites, rightly thinking that it would be of interest to readers of both.
I was intrigued when he emailed this photo to me, with my own handwriting on the bottom giving details of its origin.
Obviously, in the early years of the Heritage Society, when I was editing the MHS Newsletter, I must, at some point, have given Frank this photo for his records.
This would have been sometime in the mid-late1980s.
The somewhat dubious quality of the picture betrays its origins as a photocopy of an original photograph by Alan Wilkinson, who lived in Middlewich in the 1960s and is well known as a railway photographer and author.
It came originally from a book called The Stanier 8F 2-8-0 published by D Bradford Barton and the Stanier 8F Loco Society, and the original caption for the photo reads:

'Saturday afternoon bustle on a Cheshire by-way.
Crewe South's recently outshopped 48505 (D44)
slows for a brisk tablet exchange at Middlewich,
heading the 12.25 Stanlow -Egginton Junction
tanks in January 1965.'

Railway enthusiasts will, of course, have little need for any explanation, but for the layman/woman, here are some explanatory notes:

The engine shown here is, as indicated, a Stanier 8F - a very common type of  engine on the Middlewich line in the 1960s and 1970s, when freight traffic was very heavy.
One very important type of traffic was oil, which came from Stanlow via the West Cheshire route from Helsby to Mouldsworth on the Mid-Cheshire line* and then via Northwich and  Middlewich  to Sandbach and (until 1971) along the Sandbach-Kidsgrove line  to the Stoke area without having to pass through Crewe.
The 'tablet exchange' is the handing over of the token which enabled the train to travel over the single line section from Northwich to Middlewich. The signalman can be seen with his arm out of the signal box window, ready to take the token from the engine driver.
Note the water tower on the left, and the familiar MIDDLEWICH sign on the signal box.
This sign is now in the possession of the MRLC Committee, having been retrieved from Uttoxeter.
Its story is told here.

* the official title of MCRUA's Middlewich sub-committee (the Middlewich Rail Link Campain), which aims to build a new Middlewich Station and introduce a new passenger service from Crewe to Manchester via Sandbach, Middlewich and Northwich, is the Middlewich & West Cheshire Committee.
The West Cheshire line has been lifted, but the trackbed is protected and we keep an eye on the route with a view to its possible re-instatement in the future

Very belated thanks to ERF Ltd for very much unauthorised photocopying facilities.

Thursday, 5 September 2013


Before a spade has been turned controversy is already raging over the coalition government's plans for HS2, the High Speed Route linking London and the North, the northern section of which passes very close to Middlewich indeed. MRLC member Dr Peter Hirst wrote to the Northwich, Winsford & Middlewich Guardian pointing out the advantages of the scheme and soon had the anti-HS2 protesters in full cry.
Among the replies to Dr Hirst's letter was one from a certain Mr  Alan Langley and, in the grand old Middlewich Rail Link Campaign tradition, we couldn't resist replying. - Ed


From Alan Langley:
I NOTE in last week’s paper Dr Peter Hirst, for whom I have admiration, is airing views on the benefits of going ahead with this money gobbler, HS2.
Whilst Dr Hirst acknowledges that it is going to cost a ‘pot of gold’ to initiate this project, and says it will save us all money in saving on taxes the construction will generate with jobs etc, who does he think will be paying taxes to build it in the first place?
It is estimated it will cost up to £80 billion to build.
Even today the Institute of Directors (IOD) has questioned the monetary return.
Virgin Train taking advantage of the ballast. PHOTO: GLEN LEIGH
This photograph is copyright and cannot be used without the photographer's permission

Whilst I agree that more needs to be done to get freight on the rails, and tourist trade is all very good, but, apart from the well-heeled tourists and anyone who can claim back the cost of a ticket estimated to be in the region of #400. In the words of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver, Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning?
Dr Hirst states the time and savings in carbon footprint are well worth saving. If you can only get on it at certain stations such as Manchester how much time and carbon footprint will that extend by people having to travel say to Manchester and grid lock in the town?
He says local network rail can be improved with an improved localised rail structure – will priority be given to the HS2 where lines converge putting local rail to the back burner?
Dr Hirst does not mention leaves on the line and other general hold-ups due to broken down trains and engineering works?

Currently the Flying Scotsman in its centenary year still holds the speed record of over 120 mph, so whether you are in favour or not of construction going ahead let’s hope the writer along with the rest of us has deep pockets.

I suspect the writer is unaware when I used to work in King Street, that the Middlewich branch line, he endeavours to reopen, had to be constantly re- ballasted just to maintain it for freight use.
Localised employment will be minimal any sensible constructor will have a national gang of rail construction workers who will just move along the country as the project if undertaken.
True there maybe some hotel type employment created close to the construction/West Coast line but even this will be short-lived and when the high speed line is operational who will want to stay in a local hotel along the line anyway?
With the IOD questioning construction – will this be a fast track to recovery?
The outstanding debt on the privatised M6 is in millions – would a full line ever be completed if costs spiral, or would it run out of steam and turn this dream into a nightmare burdening future generations to come with debt for years?
Alan Langley,  Middlewich

MRLC's reply:

I'm a little confused by the part of Mr Langley's letter which refers to the Middlewich Branch Line. 
He 'suspects' that Dr Hirst is 'unaware' that the Branch line 'had to be constantly re-ballasted just to maintain it for freight use'.
I can tell you that Dr Hirst, like any intelligent person, is aware that the Middlewich line, like every other railway line, has to be re-ballasted from time to time. 
Mr Langley's use of the word 'constantly' is very misleading, conjuring up as it does visions of gallant teams of platelayers furiously battling to keep the line open and re-ballasting away like Trojans in a race against time.
The more prosaic truth is that, like every other railway line, the Middlewich Branch is re-ballasted as and when necessary. 

And it is not being maintained just for freight use, either. It's an integral part of the West Coast Main Line and is maintained to a very high standard for the use of diverted passenger trains.
Mr Langley's reference to the Flying Scotsman is also puzzling. 

For his information, regular steam traction ceased on the network in 1968, so what relevance this iconic loco has to the discussion of HS2 is anybody's guess.
And, far be it from me to accuse anyone of a basic 'schoolboy error', but surely any schoolboy (even today) knows that the speed record for steam traction is held by Mallard'and not the Scotsman?
I can assure Mr Langley and the other 'anti-HS2' correspondents in your pages that Dr Hirst is a very intelligent man, and very thorough in his research. 
I am not going to enter into this particular bear-pit, but I too have read all the arguments for and against HS2.
Wild horses, however, wouldn't drag my opinion from me at this stage.

 Dave Roberts, Chairman, Middlewich Rail Link Campaign.

With many thanks to the

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Photograph Courtesy of GLEN LEIGH PHOTOGRAPHY
Please note that this image is copyright and cannot be used without the permission of the photographer
At the last meeting of the MRLC Committee in July mention was made of the fact that a Virgin ECS (empty coaching stock) train was running through Middlewich every Saturday morning until the first week of September.
We considered this an excellent opportunity to get hold of some up-to-date photos showing modern passenger stock on the line and issued an appeal to local photographers for shots of this train in and around Middlewich.
These pictures are the very satisfactory result of that appeal.
(Above) While out gathering photos on the 10th August  Glen Leigh had the brilliant idea of obtaining a shot which  includes that most potent of all Middlewich symbols, St Michael & All Angels church, with the train in the foreground.
This, to our knowledge, is the first time a train passing through the town has ever been photographed from this particular angle.
The shot would have been impossible before the late 60s/early 70s because, until that time, the view of the background, and the church, was obscured by the red-brick structure of Seddon's/Simpson's Salt Works in Brooks Lane.
The crumbling brick building to the right is one of the last remnants of that particular part of Middlewich's industrial heritage.
It's what used to be Seddon's railway wagon repair shop and to its left once stood the loading bay where block and ground salt were loaded onto railway trucks for despatch along the salt siding and onto the Middlewich branch for eventual delivery all over the railway network.
Glen's photo also gives us  a glimpse of some of the buses belonging to one of the many firms which now occupy the old salt works site.
Just visible above the roof of the old repair shop is the slender spire of the chapel in Middlewich cemetery.
More modern industry can be seen in the shape of the ubiquitous 'green sheds' in Brooks Lane - one of them housing Dutton's Aggregates.
The train has just passed signal no MS3737 (the 'MS' denoting that it is controlled from Manchester South). This is one of the signals installed on the line a few years ago as part of the Manchester South resignalling scheme.
This controversial scheme cost a fortune to introduce and engineer and caused months of delays to services on the Crewe-Manchester line before it could be made to work properly, but it is a token of the importance of the Middlewich branch that it was included in the scheme.
Like many modern signals this one is vastly over-engineered, with an elaborate ladder and safety cage for any signal technician who may need to attend to it.
A little further up the line and out of shot to the right is the proposed site for the new Middlewich Station just south of the Holmes Chapel Road (or 'station') bridge.

The week before, on August 3rd, Peter Cross ventured a little further out of town to get this classic 'train in the landscape' shot of the train heading towards Northwich and passing fields just off Croxton Lane. The parched condition of the grass on the field and the railway embankment are evidence of the heatwave which the country was experiencing at the time.

A little further down the line the train is about to cross the bridge taking the branch line over Croxton Lane, which links Chester Road with King Street and is now part of one of the main routes between Middlewich and Northwich. A simple picture of a train crossing a bridge; something which happens thousands of times a day all over the country and passes unnoticed, but, as we battle on with our campaign to bring back this most civilised form of transport to Middlewich, a picture which means a lot to our town and its hopes for the future.

And in this shot, which must have been taken only a second or so later, Peter's judicious use of spot colour in the processing highlights the train's Virgin livery - a livery which, if the privatisation process hadn't fallen to pieces when re-franchising time came around, would by now have been well on its way into history.

Many thanks to Glen and Peter for these superb and historic photographs.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Photo: Daily Record

Calling all photographers and video makers! Anyone fancy getting up early on a couple of Saturday mornings? Virgin trains are currently running an ECS (empty coaching stock) train from Crewe to Holyhead on Saturday mornings between now and the 7th September. The train is timed to be in Sandbach around 8.10am and in Middlewich at around 8.35. I'm saying 'around', although Network Rail's working timetable gives exact timings at 8.10 and thirty seconds and 8.35 and thirty seconds. How they can be so precise is a mystery. The train, apparently, stops in Middlewich for about one minute (for 'operational reasons') and then makes its way to Northwich. MRLC would love to have some photos and/or videos of this train, as we can show the line being used for passenger trains in our publicity (some people still refuse to believe it happens). Anyone fancy having a go at railway photography? If you do take any pictures/videos and send them to us we will, of course, as usual, give full acknowledgments and use them also on the Middlewich Diary. The fact that the train is running every Saturday between now and September gives opportunities to photograph it at various points on the line between Sandbach and Northwich.
Dave Roberts, Middlewich Rail Link Campaign.

Friday, 26 July 2013


Network Rail has been seeking comments on its draft  Regional Urban Market Study which considers ways in which the railway network can be improved and developed in the future.
It will come as no surprise that plans to re-open the Middlewich line and provide a new station in Middlewich fit NR's aspirations like a glove.

Here's a link to the draft version of the study on the Network Rail site:


As you will read in the comments (see below) which we have just sent to Network Rail, both Cheshire East Council and Fiona Bruce MP are still working hard on our behalf to convince Network Rail  of the simple truth of the matter - that the Middlewich scheme is affordable, viable and vital for the future development of Middlewich, Cheshire (both East and West), and the North-West Region.
Unfortunately it is no longer possible to send comments on the draft study direct to Network Rail, but if you have any comments to make please send them here to MRLC ( and we will ensure that they are included in a letter we will be sending in the near future to Richard Eccles, Network Rail's Director of Network Strategy and Planning  - once again stressing the urgent necessity for NR to join in meaningful discussions with the local transport authority, Cheshire East, and other interested parties.


I am writing this comment in my capacity of Chairman of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign (MRLC), having read with interest the draft version of the Regional Urban Market Study.
MRLC, which has been in existence since 1992 and is run under the auspices of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association (MCRUA) campaigns for the re-opening to passengers of the Sandbach-Northwich Branch line, together with the building of a new station at Middlewich.
Our local MP, Fiona Bruce is a keen supporter of the Middlewich scheme and, earlier this year, presented a parliamentary petition on the subject.
She followed this up by writing to the Rt Hon. Simon Burns, Minister of State at the Department of Transport pointing out the merits of the scheme and the undoubted benefits it would bring to Middlewich, the County of Cheshire and the North-West region.
This was followed up by letters making similar points from Cheshire East Council and ourselves.
The Railway Consultancy Report, commissioned by MRLC and published in 2009, clearly shows the viability of the scheme, as did the earlier Chapman Report, also commissioned by the campaign. 
Middlewich in general, and the immediate vicinity of the proposed new station in particular, contains many potential commuters who work in the Manchester area and are currently obliged to travel by car into the city on the A556, due to the lack of a train service.
The scheme also, we should point out, falls within the criteria stated in the introduction to your draft document, in that Middlewich is less than 50 miles from Manchester (less than half that distance, in fact) and, as the Railway Consultancy report shows, has the potential to generate a considerable number of journeys daily, both by commuters and leisure-seekers.
The scheme's cost/benefit ratio is 5:1, far in excess of what is needed for the scheme to merit serious consideration.
Fiona Bruce recently wrote to Richard Eccles reminding him of the existence of the Middlewich scheme and pointing out that it fits in perfectly with the aims of the long-term planning of the network in order to achieve, 'economic growth, reduced carbon emissions and improved quality of life for communities and individuals.'
Cheshire East Council, as our local transport authority, is very keen to see the Middlewich scheme go ahead and will, no doubt have made its own representations to you on the subject.
We would submit that the Middlewich scheme should be seriously considered by network planners, as it has so much potential to help NR achieve its aims as set out in the draft  Regional Urban Market Study.

Dave Roberts
Middlewich Rail Link Campaign

Friday, 21 June 2013



The following is the text of a Press Release issued by MRLC on 21st June 2013:

Mayor of Middlewich Bernice Walmsley, Fiona Bruce MP and Councillor Mike Parsons discuss the creation of the new transport body for the region.

The Middlewich Rail Link Campaign welcomes creation of new transport group, ‘The Cheshire & Warrington Local Transport Body’

Members of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign (MRLC) have welcomed the creation of a new transport group with delegated powers from the Department of Transport to make strategic decisions aimed at improving transport links across the County of Cheshire and beyond.
Speaking two weeks after attending the first meeting of the Cheshire & Warrington Local Transport Body (CWLTB) Fiona Bruce MP said, ‘the stated aim of the CWLTB is “to improve transport infrastructure to secure significant connectivity gains in the support of economic growth and prosperity” in the region.
‘This would be one of the key benefits of opening up Middlewich Station for passengers and the MRLC is pressing the CWLTB to ensure that this important project is on its high priority list.’
Bernice Walmsley, Mayor of Middlewich, said at the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign’s latest meeting at the end of  May, ‘I welcome the creation of this new body and hope it will result in the provision of the transport links Middlewich needs and deserves.’
Cheshire East Councillor Mike Parsons said, ‘this scheme would, if applied properly, satisfy all the criteria we need to engage Network Rail in full commitment.
'With Pete Waterman on the board of the new body and also Patron of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign, the group is optimistic that the importance of improving rail connectivity across the region, and the part the Middlewich Scheme will play in achieving this, will be recognised.’
Dave Roberts, Chairman of MRLC, said, ‘this is a real and genuine breakthrough. Until now we’ve been dealing with the Department of Transport in London which, though sympathetic to our arguments and always willing to offer advice, clearly had its priorities centred on London and the South East when it came to rail development. This new body, which is able to make strategic decisions here in the North-West and, crucially, will also be able to secure funding and investment for schemes such as ours, is a major step forward and we are sure that with the involvement of Fiona Bruce MP and Pete Waterman in our plans, we now stand a better chance than ever of bringing back vitally important rail services to Middlewich, greatly benefitting not only this town, but the County and the wider regional area.’

Editor's note: This Press Release  may be freely copied and distributed as long as it
is not altered in any way.
Please credit the text to Middlewich Rail Link Campaign and the photo to Fiona Bruce MP. Thank you.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Coming soon to an event near you: This banner, commissioned by MRLC and funded by our parent body, the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association, will soon be a familiar sight at events in and around Middlewich.
The banner carries a simple and straightforward message which can't be repeated too often, as well as the
address for the website you're looking at now.
A striking and attention-grabbing way of letting people know we're here and working hard to bring this vitally
important facility back to our town.
We're grateful to Dave Thompson, Middlewich Town Council's Events Manager, for his help in getting this banner made.

UPDATE: The MRLC Banner makes its much-delayed public debut at the 2013 Middlewich FAB Festival.
Watch out for it at the main festival site on Market Field.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


The following is taken from Warrington Borough Council's website.
Many thanks to Cllr Peter Hirst for bringing it to our attention.

Powerful new transport body will manage millions of pounds’ worth of investment

Published Wednesday, 22nd May 2013
WARRINGTON Borough Council has joined forces with neighbouring councils to establish a powerful new decision-making body to oversee the area’s future investment in transport.
The Cheshire and Warrington Local Transport Body (CWLTB) has the power to invest in schemes that support economic growth and regeneration across the area.
The new body, made up of Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council and Warrington Borough Council, has been given devolved decision-making powers by the Department for Transport.
CWLTB is a publicly-accountable body with a single strategic objective: “To improve transport infrastructure to secure significant connectivity gains in the support of economic growth and prosperity”.
First meeting – public and media welcome
The first meeting will take place on Thursday 23 May at Congleton Town Hall at 3.30pm. Members of the public and press are welcome to attend.
It is estimated that the Cheshire and Warrington area will need over a billion pounds’ worth of investment over the next twenty to thirty years in order to meet the sustainable needs of its communities. Funding for the CWLTB will be drawn from the public and private sectors.
The Department for Transport has already committed £21.8m for the period 2015/16 to 2018/19, the details of which will be officially announced next month. This represents an initial pot of funding with the three councils working together to attract further investment.
Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for highways, transportation and climate change Cllr Linda Dirir said: “This development will make sure that Warrington Borough Council and its partners are in the best possible position to manage the millions of pounds’ worth of transport investment due to our region during coming years.
“The Cheshire and Warrington Local Transport Board will work closely with the Government, the Highways Agency and Network Rail, to help them to bring forward projects from their own investment programmes that could greatly benefit the area.
“Improved local transport means connecting better, so it’s easier for people to access jobs and leisure opportunities and it’s easier for businesses to communicate. Having a better transport infrastructure will also help give businesses more confidence in investing in the area. It’s all part of making Warrington a better place to live, work and invest, and reinforcing Warrington ’s status as a major driver of growth in the North West .”
One of the main roles of CWLTB will be to create a strategic transport policy and a transport connectivity and infrastructure plan to cover all forms of transport. To achieve its strategic and wider objectives, the CWLTB will also develop an integrated transport investment programme of capital projects for the sub region.
There will be a pooled transport investment fund, and the CWLTB will work with economic development teams to identify other funding sources, including private sector funding contributions and investments.
The new body will have the power to approve schemes, release funding and scrutinise individual schemes for consideration.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Work continues behind the scenes aimed at bring forward the re-opening of the Middlewich line to passengers
and the building of a new station to serve Middlewich and the surrounding area.
Our MP Fiona Bruce is still working tirelessly on our behalf, and presented the Parliamentary petition calling
for the re-opening of the line and station on the 20th March.
She followed this up by writing to the Rt. Hon. Simon Burns, the Railways Minister, making him aware of
the tremendous support the re-opening scheme has, both among the people of Middlewich and councillors and
officials at town, borough and regional levels.
These representations were backed up by letters making similar points from Cheshire East Council and from
the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign.
Our main concern at the moment is still the perceived reluctance of Network Rail to talk about the scheme.
That organisation’s assertion that ‘the proposals have been looked at and there is not a sufficient business case’
needs to be challenged and corrected.
As far as we are aware NR have not looked into the proposals at all, and their attitude remains that  they will
not do so until enough money has been put on the table to enable the scheme to progress through the GRIP
We are heartened by the fact that the Department of Transport has offered to provide advice to Cheshire East
Council, whose responsibility as the local transport authority it is to progress this scheme.
This is something that Cheshire East has stated that it is very keen to do, as the benefits for Middlewich and
the wider area of the re-instatement of this  link make it of  vital importance for the regeneration of the town
and a considerably wider catchment area.
Our hope is that the Middlewich proposals will be considerably more advanced when the Government decides
to make more money available for schemes such as ours.
Recently Network Rail’s Director of Network Strategy and Planning published consultation documents on the
long-term planning of the network in order to achieve: ‘economic growth, reduced carbon emissions and
improved quality of life for communities and individuals.’
Fiona Bruce immediately identified this as an opportunity to raise the campaign’s profile within Network Rail
and she has written to NR’s Director of Network Strategy and Planning reminding him of the existence of the
Middlewich proposals, which will do all this and more for this area, and asking for his help in getting NR to
look at the plans and talk to Cheshire East about them.
MRLC will also be writing a letter supporting what Fiona Bruce says.
To sum up, we are more confident than ever of the eventual success of our campaign and will continue to do
everything we can, in conjunction with our very enthusiastic local MP and Borough Council, to ensure further
Dave Roberts,
Middlewich Rail Link Campaign

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Middlewich Rail Link Campaign has welcomed the news that the date has been set for the presentation to Parliament of our petition calling for the re-opening of Middlewich Station.

Our photograph shows Cllr Mike Parsons handing over the Middlewich Rail Link Petition
 to MP Fiona Bruce during last year's Middlewich Wartime Weekend

Congleton MP Fiona Bruce's office has announced that this will take place at 7pm on the 20th March, which, coincidentally happens to be Budget Day.
 The title which it has been allocated by the Journal Office is 'Reopening Middlewich Station to passengers'.
Our thanks once again to Fiona Bruce and to everyone who signed the petition and helped with its organisation, helping us reach yet another milestone on the road to a new station for Middlewich.


Sunday, 24 February 2013


Knutsford Town Council


At a recent meeting of the Knutsford Town Council a discussion was held on the council's input into the Draft Development Strategy for the town.
Cllr Andrew Malloy asked that a reference should be included in the council's recommendations to the need for the re-opening of the Middlewich Branch line to passengers as a way of providing direct rail services between Knutsford and Crewe and removing the need for Knutsford passengers (and travellers from other stations east of Northwich) to travel via Chester or Manchester to reach this important railway centre.
This was agreed by the council
Cllr Malloy is a keen supporter of the Middlewich scheme and recognises the advantages this revived route to Crewe will bring, not only to Middlewich but also to people living across a wide area of North and Mid-Cheshire and the North-west in general. 
In 2012 he urged readers of the Knutsford Guardian to add their signatures to Fiona Bruce's parliamentary petition calling for restoration of passenger services over the Middlewich line. A link to the story is below.



Anyone who has followed the history of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign over the last 21 years as chronicled by local newspapers will have appreciated just what an up and down struggle it has been so far.
Since 1992 we've 'hit the buffers' on several occasions, been 'shunted into the sidings' more times than we care to mention, and more than once 'run out of steam' as the usual roller-coaster ride associated with any railway re-opening campaign brought alternate positive and negative messages.
According to one of our local papers we were even, at one point, and  rather alarmingly, 'run off the rails' after one attempt by some naysayer or other to discourage us.
But we have also had our periods of smooth running when we were 'given the green light' or some 'clear signals' to proceed, and it was a case of  Full Steam Ahead,.
This invariably led to us feeling 'chuffed'.
Cheshire East Council's ringing endorsement of the Middlewich Rail Link scheme is an important milestone for this campaign, for the very good reason that the council acts as the transport authority for this area and it is their responsibility to lead the process of getting the line re-opened.
A responsibility which they have now acknowledged and accepted in a very positive manner.
Below is a link to our very good friends at the Middlewich Guardian with a good news story about Cheshire East's involvement in getting Middlewich, if you'll pardon the expression, 'back on track'!

Dave Roberts

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Middlewich Station 1959 - Salt Town Productions/Middlewich Rail Link Campaign


The Middlewich Rail Link Campaign has welcomed the news that the local transport authority, Cheshire East Council, has thrown its support behind plans to re-open the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line to passengers and to build a new station in Middlewich.
Following a very successful meeting between MRLC members Stephen Dent and Cllr Mike Parsons and representatives of the council it emerged that Cheshire East is '100% behind the project' and would work together with our MP Fiona Bruce to try to obtain funding for the scheme from the new £20 million government grant scheme for new stations.
It was felt that this avenue was worth exploring, despite the fact that the Middlewich scheme is not 'shovel ready', to use the government's own phrase, because the Transport Minister has already had encouraging discussions with Fiona Bruce on the subject.
If money is not forthcoming from this source there are, of course, other funding opportunites to be considered and, to this end, Cheshire East is prepared to take the issue forward by arranging a meeting between Network Rail, the Railway Consultancy Ltd (authors of the 2009 report)and other interested parties.
The Cheshire East representatives showed enthusiasm for the 'potential for economic growth which the project would bring to the area through its logistical and strategic positioning' and would ensure that the scheme is endorsed within the Council's local transport plan. The council would also ask the Railway Consultancy to update the 2009 report to take account of recent developments including plans for the HS2 link which further strengthens the argument for our scheme.
Cheshire East has studied the 2009 report and concluded that the scheme is 'a very worthwhile project drawn up at a realistic cost'.
MRLC would like to place on record its thanks to Cheshire East Council for this very encouraging endorsement of the Middlewich scheme, and to Mike Parsons and Stephen Dent and everyone else who has worked so hard to get us to this stage.
Tireless Campaigners: Cllr Mike Parsons and Stephen Dent. Photo courtesy of Stephen Dent.

Dave Roberts,
Middlewich Rail Link Campaign

The site for the proposed new Middlewich Station. The Holmes Chapel Road bridge is on the right of the picture

Sunday, 10 February 2013


Photo: Mid-Cheshire Rail Partnership

Here's a link to an interesting video by Bob Brown which pays homage to that staple of 1950s BBC-TV, London to Brighton In Four Minutes.
Here we're travelling along what we like to think of as our 'parent line', the Manchester-Chester, or Mid-Cheshire, line at high speed and stopping to take a look at the myriad delights to be found in the towns the line serves.
Watch out as our high-speed Pacer leaves Northwich for a fleeting glimpse of the Middlewich line as it sweeps majestically in from the left on its way to Platform 3 at Northwich Station, the platform which will be used by future trains heading for Crewe via Middlewich.
The problem, to use the time-honoured expression, is that 'if you blink you'll miss it', so we've isolated a still from the film, which you can see above.
That's the Middlewich line on the extreme left, awaiting its days of re-awakened glory.
 As you can see, the current layout means that trains travelling to and from Middlewich, Sandbach and Crewe can only use the track on the extreme left which runs into the third platform at Northwich Station  before rejoining the main line East of Nortrhwich station. It's possible that when the line is re-opened the connections to and from the main up and down Manchester-Chester lines may be re-instated, to allow our trains to use any of the platforms.
On the right hand side, in the undergrowth on the railway embankment, can be seen the last vestiges of Sandbach Junction signal box, which used to control trains to and from the Middlewich line.
The Middlewich line is part of the 'Northwich triangle' and  there is another connection to the line a few yards further in the Chester direction which can take Middlewich trains onto the Mid-Cheshire line (and via another spur onto the West Coast Main Line) without them having to reverse in Northwich station.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


Here's a link to Cheshire East's Transport Plan for 2011-2015.


The Implementation Plan includes the following initiative (page 6, section 2): 

'Work with partners including Middlewich Town
Council to support the re-opening of the
to Northwich railway line to
passengers and seek funding opportunities to
take this scheme through the next
development stage.'

The Secretary of State for Transport has now, through Fiona Bruce MP, pointed out one such funding opportunity and on Tuesday 12th February MRLC representatives will be asking Cheshire East to follow it up as a matter of urgency.

Friday, 8 February 2013




Middlewich Rail Link Campaign members Stephen Dent and Councillor Mike Parsons will be meeting with Cheshire East Council on Tuesday (12th February) to urge the council to apply for funding for the Middlewich Rail Link scheme from the Government’s New Station Fund.
This follows a recommendation to Local MP Fiona Bruce from the Minister of State for Transport, Simon Burns, as reported in last week’s Middlewich Guardian (see link below).
Fiona Bruce has already asked the council to consider making an application for this money and Councillor Parsons and Stephen Dent will be pressing the case on Tuesday for an application to be submitted before the deadline on the 25th of February.
MRLC would like to correct a highly misleading statement from a Network Rail spokesman in the same report.
It is not true that proposals to re-open Middlewich Station have ‘already been examined by the rail industry but not progressed “due to the lack of a sufficient business case”’.
Our 2009 report, produced by respected rail experts the Rail Consultancy, has never been examined by Network Rail.
That organisation’s refusal to even consider reading the report without being paid a lot of money is precisely what is holding up this scheme, and has been for the last three years.
We would like to call on Network Rail to withdraw this misleading and potentially highly damaging statement, to read and carefully consider the 2009 report, and to do the job that it should be doing – helping to develop this country’s railway network and making it accessible to all.

Dave Roberts



Thursday, 31 January 2013


January 2013

At MRLC’s committee meeting on the 29th January we discussed the progress of the petition which our local MP Fiona Bruce is putting before Parliament; the possibility of our taking advantage of the new £20 million Government funding for the opening of new railway stations in the UK, and Monday’s announcement of the route for phase two of High Speed 2 (HS2) which, in this area, will run from the West Coast Main  Line near Minshull Vernon and then veer off towards Manchester, passing very close to Middlewich and Winsford at Stanthorne and Bostock.
MRLC is in the process of passing on the last few additional signatures on our petition which Congleton MP Fiona Bruce intends to put before Parliament.
The petition calls for the introduction of a new passenger service from Manchester to Crewe via Northwich, a new station at Middlewich, and Sandbach.
Fiona hopes to be able to present the petition in the near future.
The Government recently announced the creation of a new £20 million fund for the building of new stations in the UK.
The stumbling block as far as MRLC is concerned is that schemes applying for this funding need to be, as the Government puts it, ‘shovel ready’ – i.e. ready to go ahead and with the support of local authorities, train companies and Network Rail.
We do, of course, have the support of both Cheshire Councils and of Northern Rail who will be the operators of the new service, but the problem lies with Network Rail who are asking for a large sum of money merely to look at our consultants’ report.
Cheshire East Councillor Mike Parsons has agreed to talk to Fiona Bruce about this matter and see if anything can be done to access some of this money for Middlewich.
We also talked about the rather controversial matter of the new High Speed Rail Link, phase two of which will run from Crewe to Manchester, passing very close to Middlewich and Winsford in the process.
MRLC feels that the fact that the ‘local’ station for  HS2 in this area will be Crewe does nothing but strengthen the case for the new Manchester-Middlewich-Crewe service.
There will be much talk in the years to come about developing local lines to ‘feed into’ the HS2 lines and we very much hope that the Middlewich line will be one of them.
This does not, however, indicate that we believe that the new Middlewich service will ‘follow on’ from the development of the HS2 line.
Our new service, and our new station are needed now, and will be needed whether or not the new High Speed lines are built.

Monday, 28 January 2013


Illustration: ARUP/H.M. Govt.
Here's a part of the official Government map showing the proposed route for the High Speed 2 line (phase 2) in our area, It can be seen that the proposed new line. which will run in tunnels underneath Crewe, will follow the formation of the existing West Coast Main Line out of Crewe until it reaches a point just south of the existing bridge at Minshull Vernon which carries the Middlewich-Nantwich Road over the  Main Line. This is very close to the Verdin Arms pub and restaurant.
The HS2 line then veers off to the east of the WCML and makes its way through Stanthorne and over the Middlewich-Northwich road and the Sandbach-Northwich Branch on its way to Manchester.
According to reports there will be no 'new' station at Crewe on the HS2 line but the town will be served by a 'spur' from the new line to the WCML. As both lines seem to be on the same alignment, with the HS2 line running in a tunnel underneath the WCML it is far from clear how this will work.Presumably the connection to allow HS2 trains into Crewe via the existing line will be some distance south of Crewe station.


Monday, 7 January 2013


Photo: Fiona Bruce

Once again it has been a great privilege to serve the residents of Middlewich as your MP.
The victory against the American multinational Covanta’s plans to site a massive incinerator in Middlewich was one everyone in the town can be proud of – it really was a whole community fight.
I was pleased to challenge the plans directly with the Prime Minister in Parliament and at the Public Inquiry. Well done to all who played their part!
A big hand too to Middlewich residents campaigning in different ways for a better society – like the new RAMP – Residents Action for Middlewich Parks group – of which I am delighted to have been invited to become Patron; Middlewich Mothers’ Union campaign to protect children from the influence of pornography and the ever determined Middlewich Rail Link Campaigners who have collected 2000 signatures for their petition to Parliament which I will proudly present this year.
An important new initiative was the first Middlewich Expo, showcasing the area’s great and varied local businesses – the Expo was promoted by the Town Council, Middlewich Vision and East Cheshire Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise – a great example of the strengthening Partnership working between public and private sectors, social enterprises and voluntary groups in the interests of the whole community.
Middlewich life continues to go from strength to strength.
One of the highlights of the year was seeing the high standard of Design and Technology and artwork at Middlewich High School. I also very much enjoyed this year’s events and festivals such as the FAB ( formerly Folk and Boat) Festival, WWII weekend; new Artisan markets, bulb planting with the Clean Team, meeting with the Street Pastors, the Middlewich and District Annual Show and super performances by the Middlewich Youth Theatre, Middlewich Concert Orchestra, Middlewich Concert Society and the African Choir at St Michael’s – to name but a few of the such events which make Middlewich a very genuine and much loved community – not least by me.
I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year.
Fiona Bruce MP