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Councils must keep subsidising rail services after DfT decision

A district-level council thought to be the only one in the country to have to contribute funds towards its rail services is going to have to keep paying for even longer because of a Department for Transport decision.

Cannock Chase Council pays £10,000 a year towards the running of additional ‘incremental’ services on the Chase Line through Cannock, Hednesford and Rugeley. Staffordshire County Council contributes a further £39,000, and the passenger transport body Centro pays £146,000.

The DfT was expected to take over the funding of those services in March 2015 as part of the £30m electrification of the line and franchise changes. But there is “no prospect” of that happening before spring 2016, the public authorities have now been told.

Cannock council leader Cllr George Adamson told the local Express & Star newspaper: “It's a blow. This is money that could usefully have been spent elsewhere. But we've got to keep the service running, it's one of the most well-used in the country.”

The subsidy, described as “appropriate and value for money and recommended” in council papers, is likely to be given the go-ahead at a meeting of its Cabinet this week.

The ‘incremental’ services being funded comprise the Monday to Saturday evening extensions north of Hednesford to Rugeley and enhanced Saturday services, which when combined with the DfT-funded service, provide a half-hourly frequency.

Council papers say: “The funding for these services was originally planned to be for three years and then hopefully absorbed by the DfT in a future franchise, in accordance with the government funding statement for local and regional rail services. However, the DfT have now made it clear to Centro that it and the Staffordshire councils will therefore need to fund a fifth and part of a sixth year to coincide with the extension of the existing West Midlands franchise to March 2016.”

Almost 700,000 journeys a year are made on the Chase Line, which has seen phenomenal growth in recent years.

Electrification and associated improvements will allow faster journeys – 70mph instead of 45-50mph. The project is underway, with 24 bridges having to be rebuilt or modified to accommodate the overhead line equipment. Completion is expected in 2017.

The incremental services’ estimated benefit-cost ratio of 1.63:1 is expected to rise to 3:1 once the electrification and line-speed upgrades are complete.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]

(Image shows a London Midland Class 170, which operates services on the non-electrified Chase Line. Photo by Elliott Brown, used here under a Creative Commons licence.)


Peter   18/08/2014 at 14:06

24 modified brides seems an intriguing concept

PSE   18/08/2014 at 14:19

Whoops! Thanks for spotting that one Peter! Corrected.

Chris   18/08/2014 at 15:26

If this is "one of the most well-used in the country", why does it need a subsidy?

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