Full steam ahead for railway plans following councillors’ approval

Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy opened new sidings in Robertsbridge in December, linking the rail network to the Rother Valley Railway for the first time
Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy opened new sidings in Robertsbridge in December, linking the rail network to the Rother Valley Railway for the first time
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Plans to restore a two mile section of heritage railway line, with a level crossing on the A21, have been given the go ahead.

Rother Valley Railway (RVR) wants to re-create the ‘missing link’ which would allow steam trains to travel between Robertsbridge and Bodiam.

But the line would cross the A21, sparking concerns about potential traffic problems.

But last week Rother District Council (RDC) granted planning permission for the scheme, subject to the transport secretary’s approval, to the delight of the Rother Valley Railway team.

In a policy document drawn up by RDC, it indicated the authority would support the RVR extension if three key criteria could be met; that it does not compromise the integrity of the floodplain and flood protection measures at Robertsbridge; that it has an ‘acceptable impact’ on the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; and it ‘incorporates appropriate arrangements for crossing the A21’.

RVR chairman Gardner Crawley said: “Rother Valley Railway is delighted that its application for restoration of the Northbridge Street to Junction Road section of the Robertsbridge to Bodiam Reconnection Project has been approved by Rother District Council. The reconnection is included in RDC Plan Policy EM8 and RVR has already made significant progress in progressing the scheme and meeting the three criteria laid down for continuing RDC support.”

He added: “RVR is aware that in spite of overwhelming support for this restoration scheme, there are local people who have expressed concerns about level crossings and excessive parking in Robertsbridge itself. Their fears will be addressed as the scheme progresses and it is to be hoped that the economic benefits of the scheme will become apparent.

“The remaining landowners have additionally expressed concern and RVR fully appreciates that a railway crossing their farms represents some disruption. RVR has met with the three landowners and will continue to engage with them with a view to acquiring the original trackbed by agreement.”

The work is financed by private benefactors and to date, RVR has spent over £3million. Mr Crawley says independent studies show reinstatment of the line will being economic benefits in excess of £2million a year to the area.

RVR is now preparing for the Transport and Works Act Order which will provide the statutory powers to build and operate the railway.