EFFORTS to reopen Chard Junction rail station have taken a major step forward after funding for the initial business case was secured, writes Daniel Mumby.

Cllr Connor Payne is spearheading a campaign for a new ‘Chard Parkway’ station on the site of the old station, which closed in 1966, providing hourly services to Exeter and London.

He has now secured £23,000 from locals and businesses for an outline business case to submit to the Department for Transport in the autumn.

The old Chard Central station was turned into shops after it closed and much of the trackbed onto Ilminster is now part of the Stop Line Way cycle route.

The line is currently served by South Western Railway, with trains stopping at Crewkerne and Axminster.

Cllr Payne estimates a new station would serve around 30,000 people and could create around 5,000 new jobs by attracting new companies to the area.

He said: “Why should we be putting the extra damage on our bus services when we can have an easy link to the rail network?

“We’re doing a lot at the moment with the night bus service and the reduced fares, but looking at the long term, we definitely need better access to travel and transport, and that includes rail.

“There will be significant development in Chard coming over the next 10 years, which will bring new families in, and we want to give them the opportunity to travel, live and work more accessibly.”

Cllr Payne added: “The benefits, as far as I’m concerned, far outweigh the negatives.

“Somerset Council doesn’t have the money for this, so we’ve taken it on ourselves as a community.

“We’ve set up the Chard Active Travel and Transport Group, and we’ve had consultancy agents to come forward and do the work for the outline business case. Businesses and residents who all want to see this happen have chipped in.

“We were too late in the game to apply for government funding for the business case. When we went to our MP, we didn’t have a convincing enough argument to have a good chance to bid for funding.

“This route seems a better way – we’ve got a bit more time to look into the facts. What we are looking to do is to have a convincing enough case so that when the government have the money, we can hand it to them and they can get on with it.”

The business case is expected to be completed and submitted to the DfT within three months.