RAIL campaigners are demanding swifter action to bring trains to Gadbrook Park after it emerged the scheme could take another 15 years at least.

In Cheshire West and Chester Council’s new transport strategy for Northwich, consultancy firm Mott MacDonald has given a timescale of 2026 to 2030 for the return of passenger services using the Middlewich branch line to Sandbach via Gadbrook Park.

But Cheshire East Council’s local transport plan – which is currently out for consultation – says Network Rail has identified a need to deliver the service after HS2, which is due to be completed in 2033.

Stephen Dent, chairman of the Mid Cheshire Rail Link (MCRL) campaign, said: “We feel that there is no reason why it should be delayed any further.

“The line is up and running already. It is such a simple task to do, it seems ridiculous that it should take another 10 years or so.

“Traffic is an issue on roads around Gadbrook Park, and there are queues for drivers going to and from work. Gadbrook Park itself could be extended, and opening a station there would be ideal.”

Campaigners have been pushing for passenger trains to return to the Middlewich branch line for more than 25 years.

While CEC’s transport plan suggests that time will come after HS2, Stephen insists that makes little sense – and hopes the line would still be reopened should HS2 fail to materialise.

“It does not make sense to have a HS2 hub in Crewe and the line connecting to it opening afterwards – no one could get to it by train,” he added.

“I would like to think that if HS2 did not happen there would be money invested into the existing rail infrastructure which would mean we could still reopen the line.”

After failing to find a breakthrough directly with Network Rail, campaigners have made recent progress by meeting with MPs – and MCRL has now commissioned consultants to produce a report on reopening the line at the request of Chris Grayling, transport secretary.

That will be presented at a meeting with Transport for the North and the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership on Wednesday, May 30.

Cllr Tony Lawrenson, Labour CWAC member for Witton and Rudheath, added: “Too many things can change in 15 years and there might be no money to do it by then.

“When you push things back like that there is no firm decision to do it, they are just playing for time.

“We need Gadbrook Park sorting out sooner rather than later. It’s really bad in Rudheath now for parking – that’s not the fault of the workers, because there is nowhere else for them to park.”

At the CWAC cabinet meeting where the Northwich Transport Strategy was revealed, Cllr Paul Dolan, cabinet member for adult social care, said the proposals could be updated if the councillors believed they were of a higher or lower priority than suggested by Mott MacDonald.