LAND in Thornbury at the heart of housing controversy would be essential to the creation of a new railway line, the Gazette can reveal.
A new commuter train route would have to run through Morton Way and continue down to Oldbury, according those campaigning to reopen a rail line in the region.
Yet the fields located to the north of town are currently earmarked for housing after South Gloucestershire planners chose Morton Way as the best site to build 250 homes over the next five years.
The two schemes would be mutually exclusive, however. And if housing plans are not shelved, those in favour of reinstating a train line through Thornbury would be setting themselves up for disappointment.
Housing development at Morton Way will be discussed one final time at a special meeting on March 7, when a government inspector will scrutinise the council’s decision to build extra homes on the green fields.
Conservative district Cllrs Brian Hopkinson and Trevor Jones have been spearheading the campaign to restore a line in the area ever since the Tytherington Quarry announced its impending closure, freeing up the old railway tracks at the asphalt plant.
"Morton Way would be the logical place to put a line if you’ve got to take it down to Oldbury," said Cllr Hopkinson. "If they start developing houses there it’s going to block the rail line."
Cllr Hopkinson had previously pointed out that improved transport links would be crucial to the construction of a new nuclear plant at Shepperdine. Moving building materials onto the site via rail would help reduce congestion on roads and potentially speed up construction, according to the politician.
A train line would in fact help cope with the 500 homes due to be erected at Park Farm and the major influx of new residents, he said. "The reality of the matter is that if they had good transport systems people would not be so worried about building this number of houses," Cllr Hopkinson added.
According to the West of England Area Rail Studies report published in April 2012 reopening the line would cost £38 million with operating costs of £3 million each year.
The councillors have approached Horizon, the developer behind plans for a new nuclear power station at Shepperdine near Oldbury.
Horizon head of commercial development John Gilbert told the Gazette a rail line might present some difficulties, although the firm was keeping its options open.
“We’ve previously carried out initial studies into transport options by rail, sea and road, including the existing rail link to Tytherington Quarry," he said.
"Early feedback suggested difficulties in extending the line to our site and issues with the volume of existing rail traffic on the main line.
“We'll review this thinking as we develop our proposals and more detailed transport studies are carried out. We will have to demonstrate that our project has a workable traffic management plan and this could include a combination of river transport, with the possible construction of a marine offloading facility, as well as rail and road options."
South Gloucestershire Council said it had not yet discussed the possibility of reopening a rail line in Thornbury with potential future users.
"The proposals for a new nuclear power station at Oldbury are at a very early stage, and there have been no formal discussions with the power station developers about specific transport proposals or route options," he said.