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Anyone fancy joining a putative line revival project?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by BrightonBaltic, Sep 6, 2015.

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  1. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic Member

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    Hello all... this has turned out to be a rather lengthy post, so beware. TL;DR version reads small group with one experienced member has lost said experienced member and needs a replacement expert if an idea is to become a project.

    I've deliberately avoided discussing my little pet project here hitherto, but, for reasons I shall go into a bit in a moment, it's now moribund and in need of some serious help from more experienced individuals than the few of us that make up the informal group that has come together over it if it is to progress from being merely an idea in a few people's heads.

    Several years ago (forget exactly when, might have been 2012), in a fit of inspiration derived from the successful use of social media to promote and even start some heritage railway projects (and in a level of optimism about one particular Somerset group's activities which has yet to be rewarded), I started putting out feelers on Facebook to raise interest in rebuilding the old Guildford - Cranleigh - Horsham line (well, it's really Peasmarsh Junction - Cranleigh - Christ's Hospital, but that's being a bit pedantic). The subject of its possible reopening was a hot topic locally after ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies) recommended the reinstatement of the Peasmarsh to Cranleigh section, at an estimated cost of £63 million (about £10 million/mile), with a benefit:cost ratio of 1.7 to 1.

    My enquiries did attract a modest amount of interest - particularly from a Mr Neil Jackson, formerly of the East Kent Railway and also much involved at the K&ESR. Neil and I soon met, and by and by walked much of the route, including some detailed measurements being taken at Christ's Hospital. Along the way, we also attracted the interest of a local guy who has been involved in the reinstatement of the parallel Wey & Arun Canal. Neither he nor I have any railway experience, but we've got some vision and drive. We have also had some informal expression of interest from a young volunteer from a 10 1/4" gauge line in Hampshire, but nothing has yet come of this. Neil - and I say this with no independent verification of what he told me, but I have been given no reason to disbelieve what he said - was the resident "railway expert", with experience in P/way (including in relation to the K&ESR/RVR Robertsbridge extension), C&W, shunting and diesel driving. I continued to promulgate the putative project through social media, with perhaps not a little arrogance and bravado. I am aware that I have made myself somewhat unpopular in certain quarters. In May 2014, Neil and I staged a very poorly-planned public meeting in Cranleigh, which was, to put it mildly, a complete fiasco - while I must bear responsibility for it, it wasn't helped by Neil binning the agenda and jumping straight to Q&A - with a mainly hostile (and, dare I say, NIMBY) audience... alas, there were also some people there who could have helped us if we hadn't made such fools of ourselves. Lesson learned the hard way.

    Early this summer, Neil, who owns several businesses, including railway DVD producer "Heritage in Motion", and is setting up a vehicle restoration business with a sideline in C&W work, possibly including new-build vehicles, informed us that, due to pressures of personal life and work - not to mention a 3-hour journey in each direction from his home to the former railway - he could no longer continue his involvement with the project. He stated that he believes it remains viable. Furthermore, there is some possibility in the future of a major investor being willing to inject some very serious sums of cash into the project if there is real evidence that it would be put to good use. I am not at liberty to discuss anything related to this investor at the moment - suffice to say, a landmark series of litigations may deliver a very sizable sum to his bank account...

    So - in hope and desperation rather than conviction that someone experienced will come forward - is anyone interested in helping make this a reality? Local opinion polls on the subject of reopening indicate overwhelming public support - although this has not been on the basis of a volunteer-led heritage reopening, admittedly. Cranleigh is a sizable "village" (really a small market town), of pleasant character, not dissimilar from Alresford. Nearby Guildford is a big conurbation with a six-figure population. Bramley and Wonersh, the villages in between, could also provide a significant customer base (for want of a better term). The annual Dunsfold Wings & Wheels event brings several hundred thousand people to the area over the August bank holiday weekend, and the local roads just can't cope.

    South-east of Cranleigh, the far side of the country station at Baynards (south of which there is a modest-sized but waste-filled cutting and a tunnel full of bats straddling the Surrey/West Sussex county border) there are essentially two villages, Rudgwick and Slinfold, neither of great size. While Christ's Hospital, junction with the Arun Valley line, is a story of a public school and not much else, not far away is the rapidly expanding new development called Broadbridge Heath, to the north of the line, and the village of Itchingfield just to the south. There is a shallow infilled cutting just to the west of Christ's Hospital, adjacent to a small airfield, the runway of which faces the line (this would require some working agreement, whereby aircraft and trains do not coincide!). To further complicate matters, the Downs Link foot/cycle path occupies much of the trackbed (or runs alongside it in places - it diverts over the blocked-up tunnel and beside the two small infilled cuttings), and, although it is muddy, rutted, undrained and generally unfit for purpose, its users are very attached to it. The formation was only ever single-track width, so a shared arrangement as found at e.g. the Avon Valley Railway will not work. While a parallel path over open countryside is doable, a Some demolition of properties (mainly on station sites, principally the locally-hated "Stocklund Square" building in Cranleigh) will be necessary, and there are a few missing bridges, but the trackbed is 95% unobstructed. The biggest mystery is the A281 crossing near Bramley - the road level is slightly higher than the railway, high enough that it wouldn't have been a level crossing - but not high enough for the railway to go under it...

    While land ownership on the route is complex, quite a bit of the Sussex section is owned by West Sussex County Council. A long-dismantled spur exists between Peasmarsh Junction and the North Downs line at Shalford, but it would require significant rebuilding and reinstatement of the River Wey bridge (the west abutment of which is missing, replaced by a WW2 pillbox, mainly used as a bin for booze and drug ephemera). If reinstated, this could be used for through trains from Redhill/Dorking to Godalming and points south to Havant, without the daft detour all the way up to Guildford. Peasmarsh is a mix of water meadows and industrial estates - there shouldn't be problems getting planning permission for sheds there. The workers in the large offices overlooking the former junction have often voiced their dissatisfaction at having a railway come right past their office, with the nearest station two miles away... so there might be a possibility of collaborating with Network Rail, South-West Trains and Surrey County Council on putting in a station there (I was thinking 1930s "Southern Odeon" Art Deco style... '30s cinemas are another of my big passions). There is also a large park-and-ride site (named after the local hamlet of Artington) the other side of the Portsmouth main line at Peasmarsh - road access (just off the A3100) would have to be from this side, although a 'back way in' (probably only suitable for getting to sheds) could theoretically be built off the A248 "Broadford Road". Close by is the popular tourist attraction of Loseley Park, a huge Elizabethan-era mansion with extensive gardens and parkland. While its main entrance is off the B3000 in Compton, there is also a drive off the A3100 right opposite Peasmarsh Junction/Artington Park & Ride. No effort has been made as yet to contact Michael More Molyneux, present custodian of his family's ancestral pile, let alone to try and obtain his support. A similar, though rather smaller Tudor house formerly existed at Baynards (in fact, the station, the sole intact survivor on the line, currently in the private ownership of an elderly couple, was built solely to serve it), but was destroyed in a suspicious fire and hastily demolished in the 1970s while under the neglectful ownership of helicopter magnate Alan Bristow. The site remains undeveloped, but the current owners have proposed creating a replica (thankfully, substantial photographic evidence survives) from the rubble and new material as required. However, nothing has come of that proposal, and in the meantime four nearby pubs have closed for want of trade (which the cycle path is not providing!).

    At Christ's Hospital, while the existing road access is off minor lanes, access to the former Cranleigh Line platforms could be put in straight off the northbound A24 across WSCC and/or Southern Water land (I hasten to add, no meaningful dialogue on this matter has yet been entered into).

    As far as political support goes, quite a few Councillors on Cranleigh Parish Council have been supportive, and the Rt Hon Member for Guildford owes me a favour after (defending a wafer-thin majority) I canvassed for her a bit in the last days before the 2010 General Election, helping (in however small a way) to secure her an increased majority. For what it's worth, I did not see fit to repeat the favour earlier this year. Call it youthful naivety on my part (I was 18 at the time) - but Ann Milton MP is a reasonable, warm, businesslike woman, and could be useful to this project. I also have a cordial (albeit at present wholly virtual) friendship with a Lib Dem Councillor on WSCC. I did some research a while ago into local (borough and county council) and national government policy, transport plans, planning frameworks and so on - a lot of it did seem to read in favour of reopening this much-missed branch line (closed four weeks before its centenary in 1965, under very dubious circumstances). The replacement bus services were themselves withdrawn within months. Meanwhile, the local population has doubled, and car ownership per capita has tripled - and the roads are exactly as they were 50 years ago...

    I haven't really done much on the project this year. Perhaps I could have done more. The difficulty in getting Neil up to Surrey/West Sussex from his base in Deal, Kent when his diary was often filled months in advance had rather caused a loss of momentum. Were the project to gain a new, experienced leader, I would be willing to put in the time and work, to learn, to listen and to STFU when required. The more I learn, the more I've learned how little I really know: I've gained humility which was sorely lacking when I first started working on this proposal.

    Before it is said, I have already been told many times "forget it, go and help an existing railway near you". At the moment, I do not drive, nor do I have the financial means to sustain car ownership. From my place of residence, it is a lengthy and convoluted journey to either the Mid-Hants or Bluebell Railways. As and when I am able to drive (or with some help on the transport front), I would be willing to do so - but I would still want to be working on the Cranleigh Line project as well...

    So - your thoughts? Please try and be positive, even if you are not able or willing to get involved. To those thinking "you're mad, it'll never happen, forget it" - you are entitled to your opinion, and you may be correct, but I would prefer it if you were at least a tad more diplomatic about it - and if there's one thing I've learned from the heritage railway industry, it's that the "impossible" just takes a little longer and some more time... to the more mature (ahem...) of this forum's members, how many of you in the 70s and 80s believed that, in the first decade-and-a-half of the 21st century, we'd have Galatea, King Edward II, Duke of Gloucester (OK, I know the whole saga that's been through in the last few years) and a new-build A1 running? Or that the Bluebell Railway would complete its East Grinstead extension? In fact, seeing 'Tornado' in Imberhorne Cutting was a very powerful image, I thought...

    If you've read this far, thank you. If you wish to respond privately, PM me here or email rjwharrold@gmail.com

    Richard Harrold.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2015
  2. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    Er wasn't this the scheme that descended into two identical facebook groups (echoes of Monty Python) with support from Alfred Roberts

    Richard , no disrespect to those involved but if you are looking for someone to make something happen It won't happen
     
  3. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic Member

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    Sidmouth, there was an attempt (by Bluebell Railway members, including a Mr Tom Waghorn, and using false identities, fake accounts and stolen photographs) to hijack it and shut it down, they even registered a limited company. Alfred has never been involved in the project in any way (but for having been in and posted in the now-defunct Facebook group, which I took down), and I have been warned about him before. He seems well-meaning but a very strange character.

    I would like, if at all possible, to make this revival happen, to leave behind the failures and farces that have dogged it at times. I'm under no illusions, it would be extremely difficult to achieve - but I relish a challenge...
     
  4. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Part of the furniture

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    Difficult! impossible I would say, I walked the line 6 months after closure and returned about 2 years ago, a beautiful line it was, but now its beyond a challenge.
     
  5. OldChap

    OldChap Member

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    Man has stepped on the moon, put probes in deep space and landed machines on distant planets. Nothing is impossible if you have the will, expertise and finance to achieve one's goal.

    However any project like this has to capture the imagination, I generally back projects to reinstate lines and especially in cases where they can actually function as intended as a transport link, so as much as I admire your projects aspirations I think that this lines reopening would be best left to NetworkRail.

    That said I wish you the best of luck.
     
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  6. cct man

    cct man Part of the furniture

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    Well said Michael
     
  7. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic Member

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    Network Rail have said they won't do it, the money would have to come from Surrey County Council (who don't have it to spend and probably wouldn't if they did), so some form of community/heritage operation is the only way forward. Now, I'm a total steam Nazi, as far as I'm concerned the only good diesel is a scrapped diesel, but I would presume that the use of a DMU would be required.

    I don't believe anything is outright impossible, but one thing's for certain: neither I nor my chum from the Wey & Arun Canal group have the railway-specific expertise required to make this happen - which is why I thought I'd post here. So many "impossible" schemes, whether in the world of locomotives or line reinstatements (I could point to the two S&D sites, Helston, the Aln Valley, Epping-Ongar etc), have come to some degree of fruition. The engineering challenges aren't insurmountable. The political ones may be another matter.

    I hope I don't sound intemperate or resentful - I try not to be, although I can't pretend I don't have an emotional attachment to this pet project!
     
  8. John Petley

    John Petley Part of the furniture

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    I too wish you well. In my teenage years, we lived in Redhill and I want to boarding school in Godalming. When my parent took me to and fro at the beginning and end of terms, our route would take us over a bridge on the road from Shalford to the A3100 under which the Horsham-Guildford line used to run. I also walked some of the trackbed and remember the old sign at Bramley & Wonersh station, which I believe still survives in situ. Now living in Sussex and with my elderly mother in Farnborough (Hants) I find myself again driving over that old bridge when I go to visit her. I'd love to see a train running underneath it. You seem to be under no illusions about the scale of the challenges you face but if you can find some serius financial backing, who knows?

    Regrettably good will is as much as I can offer at this stage. When we're more settled into our new home, I would like to volunteer at some local line, even if only a few times each year. However, the nearest station on the Horsham-Guildford line is probably about 40 miles from my house and I have three lines within a 20-mile radius of here to choose from, so I'll probably give what little time I can offer to one of them. I'll certainly be interested to follow your progress,. however.
     
  9. tom92240

    tom92240 Part of the furniture

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    Richard,

    If you're going to include me by name and especially in that manner, I suggest you should get your facts correct first!

    I seem to recall at the time those involved in the limited company were trying to help you but you were hell bent on accusing them of "slander" using fake identities, of which I had NOTHING to do with.

    I also recall you couldn't register the company for "legal reasons" which turned out to be complete ******** and showed up have farcical your plan was when someone went and did it on your behalf in under 10 minutes.

    I suggest, if you wish to keep on with this charade that I am then entire reason your group failed then kindly contact me off list and we can go through the truth rather than you, ironically, slandering me :)
     
  10. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic Member

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    Tom, you were listed as a director of the company. At no time was I consulted or invited to join your outfit. It was pure sabotage. However, it's all in the past. We never got a company registered for the reason that we didn't have the numbers required...
     
  11. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Cranleigh - Isn't that now the largest town in Surrey not to have a railway anywhere near? I certainly can recall the debate about reinstating the Cranleigh - Peasmarsh link years ago soon after Cranleigh grew at the pace it did. Land prices/ownership in Surrey will be an interesting discussion point, I suggest.
     
  12. tom92240

    tom92240 Part of the furniture

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    Yup, and I still am, and the other director isn't from the Bluebell...It was impossible to consult you after you blocked us both because we were "libelling" you. We both consulted another person (his name I forget) in your band of merry men but he was unable to commit to anything at the time.

    Needless to say, you can register a company with just 1 person...I have no idea what numbers you think you require. I think I said that at the time and was able to prove to you, and to the rest of the people who agreed, that it was possible to do so. Aside from the fact the company to which you refer actually has nothing to do with your project other than in name.

    Also I'd like it on record you have not addressed any of the rest of the false accusations you have personally linked to me :)

    The credibility of your idea is so far very weak.
     
  13. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Richard,

    I'm not what you want (thoroughly overcommitted elsewhere, and without preservation experience), but I hope you will find my reaction of interest. I do not see your proposal as viable in a way that could make me go "that's interesting, I'd like to be involved in that". My immediate reaction is based on the following points about the scheme as you describe it:
    • The line is long shut
    • There is by all accounts a strong NIMBY faction determined to keep it shut
    • I can't tell whether this is a preservation or public transport scheme
    • If a preservation scheme, no clue is given as to how it would develop - unless we're meant to believe that it will be a full reinstatement.
    • Land uses have changed significantly
    • There are two infilled cuttings (how long did it take the Bluebell to get to East Grinstead?)
    • The "support" you refer to is intangible, and adds to little more than words (would the politicians you mention be happy to be referred to in this way?)
    In particular, I can't see anything to tell me how you expect to get from where you are now to a working railway. As a child I remember trips up the yard at Swanage; elsewhere I see archive pictures of small scale operations before now substantial railways got going properly. You mention Alnwick; I remember reading about it 15-20 years ago, and it has only recently got to the stage of running a few yards despite a great deal of hard work.

    I then notice that its inspiration is from one of the S&D schemes (I assume the one intended to reopen the whole line which I've long filed under "Cloud Cuckoo"), and that the project so far has a lot of controversy and very little substance behind it. I don't expect any project - especially when new - to have many people behind it, but this feels especially thinly backed. All in all, not a compelling proposition.

    Your honesty* does you credit, but I'd want to see evidence of you putting your learning from previous failings into practice. Gaining experience at another scheme would be a good start, as would demonstrating your ability to lead a group in the real world as well as on social media.

    I'm sorry if this is not what you want to hear. If you can do something about the points I've made, then I would be delighted to be proved wrong,

    * - all of the above is written without reference to the exchange above between you and Tom Waghorn. If what Tom has said is at all accurate (I would prefer not to have a blow by blow account from either of you), then this begs significant questions about both your approach and your ability to respond to criticism and challenge. Both this exchange and your description of the Cranleigh public meeting suggest rather both a thin skin and a little too much willingness to blame others when a quiet veil would be more appropriate.
     
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  14. tom92240

    tom92240 Part of the furniture

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    I agree with 35B's post;

    I'm sure this could be handled a lot better from my stance, however my aim is for you to see that you cannot name and shame people that haven't done half the things you have publicly written and definitely not set out with the intention to sabotage or bring anything down. I would rather prefer that if you had any issue that you contacted me about it personally rather than airing dirty laundry straight away. It just puts my back up and here we are.

    I would see it advantageous to your cause that you remove my name from the post and contact me directly about an amicable solution to whatever it is you think I have done! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what can be achieved by talking to people instead of going to war, per say.
     
  15. goldfish

    goldfish Nat Pres stalwart

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    This is such an utterly nonsensical project. Reinstating the line from Cranleigh to Guildford makes a certain amount of sense, but I'm struggling hard to understand how it would ever happen without being a) part of the national network and b) funded and driven by a combination of local and central government. Without both of those things, it's just steam and wind.

    A 'heritage' option has as much chance of success as the monorail suggested a while back. Similarly a busway, unless it bulldozes its way through the Yvonne Arnaud, around the one-way system to the station will have no net benefit on congestion into Guildford or the 281.

    The greatest value would be felt with a decent 'through' service or two to Waterloo in the early morning, returning evening, potentially with a limited local service to Guildford during the day. Cranleigh, Bramley and Wonersh are all now commuter towns, with wealthy workers commuting daily to London. Currently those people all drive to Guildford (and/or stations on the stopper route, such as Effingham) with consequent impacts on parking, traffic, etc.. But that won't happen without a permanent and sustainable solution to the 281 crossing outside Shalford, integration with the existing 4 per hour fast SWT service through Guildford and related infrastructure investment.

    It's hard to see the political momentum for any of that coming to pass in the near future, but until it does, these other ideas are just entirely away with the fairies…

    Simon
     
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  16. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    I agree completely with 35Bs post. The only point that I would add is that, when listing recently established lines that BrightonBaltic sees as inspirational, he includes Epping-Ongar. This is the only one on the list that could be regarded as being an outright success at this stage, but is he aware of the two overriding factors that make it so? First, it entered preservation as a complete railway, with all track and much infrastructure intact. Second, it is owned by a wealthy individual, who continues to bankroll it and is responsible for its management. I think that your scheme is some way adrift from that:rolleyes:
     
  17. goldfish

    goldfish Nat Pres stalwart

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    There's potential for reopening the Cranleigh to Guildford section, but the other direction to Christ's Hospital is beyond 'cloud cuckoo' and into 'batspit insane' land…

    Simon
     
  18. Sheff

    Sheff Resident of Nat Pres

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    Think I'll put the kettle on ...... :D
     
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  19. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    Some one putting the kettle on in the office block that now occupies Cranleigh station is the nearest to a return to steam this line will see.
     
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  20. Fireline

    Fireline Member

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    Thanks for that, Flaman. I was unaware of the EOR ownership and finance position. Rather informative.
     
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