A COUNCILLOR for Chard South met Network Rail to discuss the proposed reopening of a railway station.

Cllr Connor Payne, the Conservative Councillor for Chard South, met with stakeholders of Network Rail and South Western Railway earlier this month on the proposed reopening of Chard Parkway Railway Station.

Cllr Payne met with Paula Haustead (Head of Strategic Planning, Network Rail), Jaime Rockhill (Lead Strategic Planner, Network Rail) and Andrew Ardley (Regional Development Manager, South Western Railway) alongside Jonathan Roberts (JR Consulting Ltd) to discuss the current and future opportunities around the proposed reopening of the former Chard Junction railway station.

As a result of the meeting, Network Rail have agreed to carry out a hypothetical timetable analysis of Chard Parkway, it has also been suggested by Network Rail that the project could be used as a trial for the assessment tool developed by the Office of Rail Regulation, Department for Transport and Network Rail called ‘Better Value Rail’.

In addition to this, Network Rail will also support the project by providing any available information needed to develop a business case for the project.

Cllr Payne said: “This meeting initiated by Network Rail and South Western Railway officials shows the project is now being taken very seriously by regional rail stakeholders, and I am delighted that a formal relationship has begun to develop the case for Chard Parkway.”

“The opportunity for the Chard Parkway project to be trialled using the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail and the Department for Transport’s new ‘Better Value Rail’ tool gives us an opportunity to provide a convincing case to reopen the station.

“The timetabling analysis will also enable Network Rail and South Western Railway to see whether stopping trains could work with minimal disruption.”

“Chard Parkway would enable local residents to find better job and learning opportunities, and in conjunction with additional active travel projects, residents of Chard and the surrounding villages would see a significant improvement to everyday life in the area.

“I’m glad I was able to share the case with Network Rail and South Western Railway, and that they are willing to support the analysis to the best of their ability. I remain incredibly optimistic.”

Marcus Fysh, the Member of Parliament for Yeovil, added: “I’m pleased that officials are looking into some of the detail of what the Chard Parkway reopening might entail. This project which would benefit people in Chard and beyond has my full support.”

Paula Halstead, Head of Strategic Planning (Wessex Route) for Network Rail, said: “Network Rail and South Western Railway are keen to work alongside stakeholders looking to invest in the Railway.

“In this context, we met with Cllr Connor Payne and his consultants to share ideas and information which will allow them to consider options for rail in the Chard area and a possible station at Chard Junction.”

Cllr Diogo Rodrigues, Conservative spokesperson for Transport & Digital on Somerset Council, said: “I am pleased to see the momentum behind the opening of Chard Parkway.

“This initiative aligns with the vision Connor campaigned for when elected, and its inclusion in the ‘Better Value Rail’ Department for Transport trial programme underscores its importance.

“The potential benefits to the local community, including improved connectivity and economic growth, are significant.”

Councillor Mike Rigby, Somerset Council’s lead member for Digital and Transport said: “We are committed to improving public transport links in Somerset and we are supportive of the local community looking at feasibility proposals for transport improvements in and around Chard including re-opening Chard Junction Station.

“Our transport team continues to be in dialogue with both Network Rail and South Western Railways on this issue and we are always happy to discuss any potential progress with the local community.”