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Campaigning for a railway line: Who to contact?

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Hb06_

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I've recently been campaigning for a new railway line to be reopened in Northamptonshire called the South Northants Link. I've outlined our plans on our website, but I'm just not sure who to approach with these plans now, or who would help me the most.

Would it be the Department for Transport? Northamptonshire County Council? Network Rail? I'm not 100% on who to send these plans to. Thanks in advance for any help you could give!
 
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arfortune

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You'll need political support for this so ensure local MPs and authorities are on board. DfT has the reopening the railways fund too; am unsure if there'll be a second-round but you can apply for funding to help develop cases.
 

DarloRich

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rather than just write it a random MP ( great contact or not) I suggest you start with the local council leaders in the areas the proposed line passes through followed by the local MP's. They are crucial. I would also write a press release for local papers in each area. They will print anything these days. I would also suggest you get a social media presence.

I would also sort out the spelling mistakes and the clumsy language in the pdf on your website
 

The Planner

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Are you genuinely 14? have you done all of this yourself so far or what other support have you had? its rough round the edges and has a good few things which are pretty unlikely or need further work, but its better than some properly funded stuff I have seen in the past!
I have also looked at some of your other stuff on transport-northants.com, I can be one of the protagonists that shoots things down on speculative ideas, but the fact you have actually gone away and tried to put a basic high level case with research behind it is great for your age. Do not give up even if you never get anywhere. @Bald Rick we need to find this lad a job :lol:
 

DarloRich

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EDIT - hang on the author is 14!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Ignore me. I am a cynical g*t. This is really good work. Don't worry about spelling. i cant spel. Keep going!

I am very impressed if this was put together by a 14 year old. Very impressed indeed.
 

zwk500

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You'll need political support for this so ensure local MPs and authorities are on board. DfT has the reopening the railways fund too; am unsure if there'll be a second-round but you can apply for funding to help develop cases.

The DfT pot is called Restoring Your Railway. The website suggests it is still open. https://www.gov.uk/government/publi...ng-beeching-era-lines-and-stations#ideas-fund

I've recently been campaigning for a new railway line to be reopened in Northamptonshire called the South Northants Link.

From what I can see of your website, it's a brand new line, with no reused alignments so RYR is unlikely to fund you - but still apply, you never know if you don't ask.
If you want your project to be taken seriously by people with access to funding I would suggest having a look at the Lewes-Uckfield study https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/roads/roadschemes/rail/ for an idea of what professional reports require. You'll also need to revise the proposed alignment - a passenger carrying railway won't be able to get round some of the curves you've suggested at much more than 5mph.

I'd echo @The Planner's comments - for a 14 year old this is very impressive.
 

Bald Rick

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I’m going to be gentle as I think you are quite young.

The report is well presented, and certainly looks good. And I admire your enthusiasm for the subject - I can see that you have the capability to think, and analyse a problem. A career in Transport Planning is a definite possibility, with the right training of course.

At this stage, I suggest that you don’t involve local authorities, MPs or Network Rail, as I’m afraid you will be shown the door fairly quickly. The process suggested above (Restoring Your Railway) requires projects to have the explicit support of the local MP (or MPs) affected, and will provide part funding for early studies into the proposal. The promoter is expected to also provide some funding themselves.


As with all proposals for new railways, the key issue is: “What problem are you trying to solve?”, and when you have identified that, ask the question “what is the best transport solution to solve it?”

Answering both questions needs some hard data - the state of the local economies, where the main flows are for journeys to work / leisure etc, what the competition looks like (how busy are the roads, what is the bus service, etc). Some local trip data is available publicly, through census data, albeit it takes some hunting down.

Now for two sticky points.

1) The neighbours. If your proposal is serious, and becomes public knowledge, then anyone who owns land on or near the line of route will get rather interested as soon as they hear about it. Some can be very vocal, and get very personal. Whilst there is no legal requirement until a route has been formally consulted, some may even start asking for compensation. I have had to deal with such issues in the past where (being charitable) well meaning individuals have proposed alternatives to published schemes, which have gained local ‘traction’, and then had very upset property owners asking why the established project was proposing to take their property, when there was no such intention. So, be very careful about publishing anything that looks like a serious proposal that has defined lines on a map, rather than broad corridors. Or caveat what you do with clear statements that it is very early work to explore possibilities.

2) Money. In any proposal, you will need to give an indication of potential costs, both for construction and operation, and revenue. For construction, assume £30m-£40m a mile minimum. For operational cost and revenue it is more difficult, but for the latter a simple assessment of likely passenger numbers multiplied by a typical average fare (by comparing to existing fares for similar journeys).

Whatever you do, don’t present a proposal as ‘here is a new railway, and here’s some reasons why it makes sense’. As for every reason it might make sense, there will be plenty why it doesn’t. This is what most ‘reopening’ campaigns do, and they get treated accordingly.

Edit:

A few others have posted since I started writing this, and it seems my hunch that you were quite young was right! As others have said, this is as good as many proposals out there that have been developed by people who have (or at least claim to have) experience in the subject.

My advice above still stands, and is useful advice for anyone considering new transport links.
 
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DerekC

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This is a very impressive piece of work, you clearly have a vision of what you are trying to do and please don't be put off by what may seem like discouraging comments from this forum. We are all actually trying to help! But do read carefully what @Bald Rick , @zwk500 and others have said. Their advice makes sense and starts to explain how the system for promoting and financing projects in this country works.

A few suggestions in terms of the proposal as it stands:

1) You need better maps - currently there is only the Y-diagram which doesn't show the relationship of the route to the towns it serves, and a projection onto Google Earth, which is much too detailed and specific, as @Bald Rick implies.
2) Put a map on your home page, before the "Our stations" images (not tucked away at the bottom of the page), so that the reader sees the project as a whole right up front.
3) "Our stations" would really be better as something like "the communities we will serve"
4) On your new map you need to highlight the sections which re-use old railway infrastructure, if you are thinking of the "Restoring your Railway" fund.
5) You need to write an "Executive Summary" (I hate the title but that's what they tend to be called) which summarises the problem, the project and the current state of play. MPs and others won't read more than about 500 words to make up their minds whether the project is worth them thinking about further.
6) The White Paper needs to start with an explanation of the transport problem which the proposal intends to solve and go on from there. The environmental section is good, but needs to be brought nearer the front. It's one of the key reasons why a railway might be the right solution.

Finally, when you are ready you will need funding to get this moving. Does this proposal have lots of local support? If so how about crowdfunding? That might get you enough for lift-off. The local MP and local council will be key. I would try to make a friendly contact in your local transport planning department to give you some free advice. Does this have roots in a school project? Schools can be very good at getting you a contact in local government.
 

SargeNpton

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Hb06_: I suggest you read through this, as the plan seems to take into account part of what you are trying to achieve...


It would be a waste of your time trying to set up a parallel campaign for something that those with a greater influence are already looking at.
 

A0wen

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I've recently been campaigning for a new railway line to be reopened in Northamptonshire called the South Northants Link. I've outlined our plans on our website, but I'm just not sure who to approach with these plans now, or who would help me the most.

Would it be the Department for Transport? Northamptonshire County Council? Network Rail? I'm not 100% on who to send these plans to. Thanks in advance for any help you could give!

There's little point in engaging Northamptonshire County Council - that authority is going to be disbanded in the next 12-18 months and to be brutally honest, it has far more pressing concerns at the moment in other areas - children's services being a particular area of concern.

The advice from @Bald Rick is sound - and you should take notice of his comments.

My observation, and for the record I've lived in Northampton for the best part of 2 decades so know it and the county quite well, is this scheme is *highly* unlikely to ever gain traction. Cross country rural routes - and Northamptonshire is a rural county by and large - are costly to maintain and run and their usage is far lower than many on here will claim. Filling a Class 153 every couple of hours is not an indication of high demand. The only large rail reinstatement in the UK in recent years was the Borders Rail - and there were two very distinct factors with that, firstly places like Galashiels were genuinely cut off from the rail network - more than 30 miles to the nearest rail connection and secondly the SNP government seem intent on spending money on anything and everything. That project came in massively over budget.

The other successful re-opening / re-instatements have generally been on routes which still existed for freight use - so look at the Robin Hood line in Notts as an example, or more locally the reopening of Corby station or the future re-opening of EWR between Bletchley and Oxford and have generally sustained a regular, well used bus link, which can be used as an indication that there is the demand for a public transport link.

It is also worth looking closely at the history of the railways in Northamptonshire - the kind of lines you're proposing reinstating were closed pre-Beeching by and large - such lines had been built as part of the Victorian railway mania which led to all sorts of connections being built - the failing was understanding whether the demand *actually* existed for such links and as early as 1950 it was becoming clear that for many such lines the answer was no. Even now, there is no tangible demand for travel between Northampton and Brackley, Northampton and Leamington or Northampton and Banbury - the main reason being that there are few reasons for people to travel between those locations. You mention commuting opportunities, but how many 'major' employers are there in Brackley, Leamington or Banbury ? The answer is very few - so people from Northampton are unlikely to travel towards those places for employment. The main employment centres - away from Northampton and MK - are Coventry, Birmingham or Leicester - and for the first two of those there is already a rail link not only from Northampton but also Banbury and Leamington.

Enthusiasm is to be welcomed, but you also need to be realistic and pragmatic about what is achievable, affordable and whether there *really* is demand for a proposal such as this.
 

Hb06_

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I suggest you start with the local council leaders in the areas the proposed line passes through followed by the local MP's. They are crucial.

I have got in touch with all district councils so far, including Northampton Borough Council, South Northants Council etc. I've contacted the local MPs of all these areas too.

I would also write a press release for local papers in each area.

I beat you to it! It's been published in 3 papers/online news sites including Northampton Chron.

Are you genuinely 14? have you done all of this yourself so far or what other support have you had? its rough round the edges and has a good few things which are pretty unlikely or need further work, but its better than some properly funded stuff I have seen in the past!
I have also looked at some of your other stuff on transport-northants.com, I can be one of the protagonists that shoots things down on speculative ideas, but the fact you have actually gone away and tried to put a basic high level case with research behind it is great for your age. Do not give up even if you never get anywhere. @Bald Rick we need to find this lad a job :lol:

Thanks for this! I am genuinely 14! I've had help from the person working on Welland Valley Rail, but started this all on my own. Surprising, I know! (Department for Transport would probably be happy to have me, especially with Year 10 work experience coming up, this would all be great to put on my CV!)

hang on the author is 14!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Indeed! You wouldn't believe how many people have had that reaction.

Very impressed indeed.

Thank you :)

The DfT pot is called Restoring Your Railway. The website suggests it is still open.

I've been taking a look at this, seems quite promising!

From what I can see of your website, it's a brand new line, with no reused alignments so RYR is unlikely to fund you - but still apply, you never know if you don't ask.

A few alignments are reused, e.g Brackley to Banbury. However, the Ideas Fund looks more hopeful than RYR.

a passenger carrying railway won't be able to get round some of the curves you've suggested at much more than 5mph.

I have heard this quite a lot, and I totally agree. I am working on reducing some curves (they are way too tight, agreed.)

The report is well presented, and certainly looks good. And I admire your enthusiasm for the subject - I can see that you have the capability to think, and analyse a problem. A career in Transport Planning is a definite possibility, with the right training of course.

Thank you! I am really determined to attempt to get this line some funding.

1) The neighbours. If your proposal is serious, and becomes public knowledge, then anyone who owns land on or near the line of route will get rather interested as soon as they hear about it. Some can be very vocal, and get very personal. Whilst there is no legal requirement until a route has been formally consulted, some may even start asking for compensation. I have had to deal with such issues in the past where (being charitable) well meaning individuals have proposed alternatives to published schemes, which have gained local ‘traction’, and then had very upset property owners asking why the established project was proposing to take their property, when there was no such intention. So, be very careful about publishing anything that looks like a serious proposal that has defined lines on a map, rather than broad corridors. Or caveat what you do with clear statements that it is very early work to explore possibilities.

I've heard this a lot too. Land will have to be negotiated for the line to be built of course, especially on the Northern part of the line. I've had emails from people already talking about their land being run through (of course, I explain to them I am not a Government Agency, it is just a proposal) However, this person seemed to be quite nice about it after learning it was just a draft.

A few others have posted since I started writing this, and it seems my hunch that you were quite young was right! As others have said, this is as good as many proposals out there that have been developed by people who have (or at least claim to have) experience in the subject.

Thank you! Although I am young, people are treating me like I know what I'm talking about, which is nice!

This is a very impressive piece of work, you clearly have a vision of what you are trying to do and please don't be put off by what may seem like discouraging comments from this forum. We are all actually trying to help! But do read carefully what @Bald Rick , @zwk500 and others have said. Their advice makes sense and starts to explain how the system for promoting and financing projects in this country works.

I totally understand that this is not discouraging, not much has put me off the campaign so far!

1) You need better maps - currently there is only the Y-diagram which doesn't show the relationship of the route to the towns it serves, and a projection onto Google Earth, which is much too detailed and specific, as @Bald Rick implies.
2) Put a map on your home page, before the "Our stations" images (not tucked away at the bottom of the page), so that the reader sees the project as a whole right up front.
3) "Our stations" would really be better as something like "the communities we will serve"
4) On your new map you need to highlight the sections which re-use old railway infrastructure, if you are thinking of the "Restoring your Railway" fund.
5) You need to write an "Executive Summary" (I hate the title but that's what they tend to be called) which summarises the problem, the project and the current state of play. MPs and others won't read more than about 500 words to make up their minds whether the project is worth them thinking about further.
6) The White Paper needs to start with an explanation of the transport problem which the proposal intends to solve and go on from there. The environmental section is good, but needs to be brought nearer the front. It's one of the key reasons why a railway might be the right solution.

I'll take this all into consideration, thank you! I have realised the website needs a little rebuild, it isn't built the best.

Finally, when you are ready you will need funding to get this moving. Does this proposal have lots of local support? If so how about crowdfunding? That might get you enough for lift-off. The local MP and local council will be key. I would try to make a friendly contact in your local transport planning department to give you some free advice. Does this have roots in a school project? Schools can be very good at getting you a contact in local government.

Maybe too much local support! Teachers have walked up to me at school and said how convenient this would be for them, e.g someone living in Northampton with family in Banbury, instead of having to take the train to Cov and changing, instead going direct. Crowdfunding may be a great idea for "idea validation" and making sure this would actually work and make sense. I plan to have a meeting with the Minister of State for Transport in future (probably in London or MK) which would be helpful.

There's little point in engaging Northamptonshire County Council - that authority is going to be disbanded in the next 12-18 months and to be brutally honest, it has far more pressing concerns at the moment in other areas - children's services being a particular area of concern.

Heard about the child services issue today on the radio. It's a good job the county and council is being replaced (might even give me a better point, I can say there are only 3 stations in West Northants instead of 6!)

so people from Northampton are unlikely to travel towards those places for employment.

It could work the other way round, though... Thinking of Northampton being one of the largest towns in the UK (could probably apply for city status and be approved)

Thank you everyone for your comments, I really appreciate it!

If so how about crowdfunding?

Just forgot I had this! https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8tFrZcZitM
 
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A0wen

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Heard about the child services issue today on the radio. It's a good job the county and council is being replaced (might even give me a better point, I can say there are only 3 stations in West Northants instead of 6!)

It could work the other way round, though... Thinking of Northampton being one of the largest towns in the UK (could probably apply for city status and be approved)

Well, child services is just one of many things that NCC's successors will need to focus on - all of which have statutory requirement whereas rebuilding old railway lines clearly doesn't.

And I doubt very much that there only being 3 stations in 'West Northants' will be a factor - it's a 'so what' factor at best. And rail isn't a county council obligation, beyond being supportive or otherwise of any schemes.

As for your last point - if you live in Banbury or Leamington you're still more likely to look to Oxford, Coventry or Birmingham for most things - they are in the same 'region' for local news for example, historically there are links between those areas and the existing transport flows support them.

I think you need to be realistic in what can be achieved - you say that you've spoken with the people behind the Welland Valley Rail campaign - but that one is another scheme which is unlikely ever to happen. It proposes linking Kettering with Wisbech - utterly pointless for a multitude of reasons. The main traffic flows from Kettering, Wellingborough and Corby by rail are towards Luton and London - that's nothing to do with the service provided - even before the Corby service came into being if you stood on Wellingborough or Kettering stations for just a few hours you'd see far more people heading south than heading north. Yes there *might* be a market for services north of Corby, but the ongoing challenge is to where? Leicester is doable, but the journey time is worse than doubling back at Kettering. Derby or Nottingham ? Again a time penalty makes it unattractive. Peterborough? Well you either need to reverse at Oakham or build something - the cheapest option, which notably the campaign didn't put forward, would be a south > east curve at Manton Junction, instead they're also proposing the resurrection of long dead lines.
 

DerekC

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(Department for Transport would probably be happy to have me, especially with Year 10 work experience coming up, this would all be great to put on my CV!)

I know you didn't start this thread to get careers advice, but as someone who worked for DfT for a few years not so long ago, I would think twice about looking there for work experience unless you have a contact there who is prepared to act as some kind of personal mentor/sponsor. You would be better looking to one of the transport consultancies - they will be much more geared to help you learn. Someone like Steer Davis Gleave (now Steer Group). If you PM me I may be able to help with a contact or two.
 

Hb06_

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I know you didn't start this thread to get careers advice, but as someone who worked for DfT for a few years not so long ago, I would think twice about looking there for work experience unless you have a contact there who is prepared to act as some kind of personal mentor/sponsor. You would be better looking to one of the transport consultancies - they will be much more geared to help you learn. Someone like Steer Davis Gleave (now Steer Group). If you PM me I may be able to help with a contact or two.

Thanks for the advice! Got it, any reason for that? I'll be sure to PM you later, working with a smaller agency/company may be more beneficial, thanks!
 

Bald Rick

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I know you didn't start this thread to get careers advice, but as someone who worked for DfT for a few years not so long ago, I would think twice about looking there for work experience unless you have a contact there who is prepared to act as some kind of personal mentor/sponsor. You would be better looking to one of the transport consultancies - they will be much more geared to help you learn. Someone like Steer Davis Gleave (now Steer Group). If you PM me I may be able to help with a contact or two.

Indeed. The DfT don’t do work like this; they ‘just’ review it. In fact they don’t really do this, others do it for them. If you want to do work experience like this, aim for one of the main consultancies, and probably best if it’s somewhere near where you live. But, be aware that whilst some are working on projects like this at early stages, that is a rather small part of their work portfolio.

For your proposal, another thing you could do is to find a couple of existing lines with similar characteristics in terms of towns served. See what their service proposition is, and what sort of patronage the trains have. For example, Ipswich to Cambridge / Peterborough, although rather longer, has similar sized towns en route, and covers similar country. Nottingham - Newark - Lincoln another.
 

zwk500

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(Department for Transport would probably be happy to have me, especially with Year 10 work experience coming up, this would all be great to put on my CV!)
I would echo the comments above about the DfT not necessarily being the best place for you. Network Rail have a Strategic Planning department, some of whom would normally be based in the MK office (which would seem to be quite convenient for you), but with COVID I can't say if they'd be able to give you any meaningful work experience. Consultancies are probably slightly better than NR for this kind of planning.

A few alignments are reused, e.g Brackley to Banbury. However, the Ideas Fund looks more hopeful than RYR.
I have heard this quite a lot, and I totally agree. I am working on reducing some curves (they are way too tight, agreed.)

Also on the layout: Gradients! I didn't see anything in your report about them, and the requirements for heavy freight are quite strict (as are the curvature requirements). If I remember rightly the railways in this area were mostly built to quite low standards (light railways act?) and they may need total reconstruction to be suitable for modern services. If you're drawing specific routes then bear in mind you'll need to meet the RSSB Standards or justify a departure from the standards. Otherwise I'd follow @Bald Rick and just put broad corridors (See EWR's initial consultation for Bedford-Cambridge to see how vague they can be). I haven't got the document to hand right now, not sure if anybody on the forum is allowed to post it.

Thank you! Although I am young, people are treating me like I know what I'm talking about, which is nice!

You certainly do have a good idea of what you're talking about. For what it's worth, I once did a school project at 13 on ways of improving connectivity to my village at the time. I joined the rail industry after Uni and am now in a role that supports long-term strategic ideas such as this.

Maybe too much local support!
I plan to have a meeting with the Minister of State for Transport in future (probably in London or MK) which would be helpful.

No such thing as too much local support. I wouldn't get your hopes up about the Transport Secretary, this project will be seen as needless duplication of EWR by a national body (see the 'Northern Arc' thread for the arguments on that). I'm being a bit blunt here so you can understand just how much effort this will take even to bring to the table. The best thing that you can do is to convince a local council member personally of the benefits of your scheme. If it becomes the council's hobby horse then national bodies will eventually take a serious look at it, if only to say they've answered the question. Even if the council is being replaced, it's likely the members of any new body will be pretty much the same (it's only a small pool of people who have any interest in running for local govt) so it's convincing the person not the politician that will be the key. Local govt also has enough standalone finance to commission professional studies, which will be needed for access to funding for building the line.
 
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