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Government highly unlikely to confirm local railway upgrades before election, warn Stroud Greens

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The reopening of Stonehouse’s Stroudwater Station is unlikely to be given the go-ahead before the General Election, given that no funding was announced in the Chancellor’s Budget, writes Sue Fenton. 

That’s according to Pete Kennedy, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Stroud, who claims that the proposals – along with urgently needed accessibility improvements to Stroud’s railway station – have been “kicked into the long grass”.

A decision on the future of Stroudwater Station had been expected “by the end of 2023”, with Stroud’s Conservative MP, Siobhan Baillie, claiming the decision was “on the Minister’s desk” ready to be confirmed.

But when Ms Baillie asked the Minister for an update last month, the Minister replied only that he would visit the Constituency “to discuss” – which Pete says is “a significant backtracking”. 

Suspecting no decision was imminent, Pete asked Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, one of the Green Party’s members of the House of Lords, to raise the issue in Parliament. 

Baroness Jones asked the Government “when they will announce their decision on the Strategic Outline Business Case ‘Restoring Your Railway Stroudwater Station’ submitted in September 2022; why that decision has not yet been made; and what is the intended purpose of the planned Ministerial visit to Stroudwater Station.”

The government Minister, Lord Davies of Gower, confirmed that the Strategic Outline Business Case had been received, but added: “The Department [for Transport] is not yet in a position to provide details on next steps for the scheme, but hopes to be able to do so in due course. Ministers conduct visits for a wide range of reasons, including to help them appreciate local issues in person.”

Responding to the Minister’s answer, Pete Kennedy said: “The government has now admitted that they aren’t announcing next steps for the scheme any time soon; they only ‘hope to be able to do so in due course’. What a change from last year, when we were repeatedly told the ‘decision is on the Minister’s desk’ to be agreed ‘by the end of 2023’! It is also revealing that Siobhan Baillie’s latest spin is that at least she tried, and none of Stroud’s previous MPs were able to succeed either.

“There are billions of pounds of potential railway upgrades waiting for funding around the country. If these were going ahead this year, the Chancellor’s Budget would surely have confirmed the funding. With no money allocated and no decision in sight, I can’t see how there will be any progress on the important railway upgrades in Stroud and Stonehouse before the General Election.

“I worry that the Conservatives have kicked Stroudwater station into the long grass and are just sending a Minister for a photo-opportunity so that Ms Baillie can keep ‘campaigning’ on the issue until the election.”

He added: “We need this investment urgently – the direct connection to Bristol will bring so many opportunities to families and businesses in Stroud, Stonehouse and surrounding areas.” 

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