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SC has given over all maintenance of the line to CHRL. What will CHRL do with the track at the unused level crossings (A5, A483, A495 and School Lane)?

Since the unitary authority came into being in 2009, the highway crossings are periodically inspected by the highway authority jointly with CHRL so that the need for any remedial works can be identified.

To make the question clearer, who exactly is responsible for making any necessary improvements to unused level crossings?

 

Further, we have highlighted incidents that show an increase in problems for people using mobility scooters, pushchairs and wheedled walking frames navigating over the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing. We have also noticed that the Applicant says that the standard of the crossing meets the ORR’s requirements. Does this mean that the ORR standards are based in ease and safety of passage for the railway at the expense of the pedestrian?

 

What about the Disability Discrimination Act? Is the Applicant and the ORR happy to let elderly and disabled people risk having falls at the pedestrian crossing in its present state and condition?

 

We note in the Accident Report (document 8 attached with the Applicant’s further written representation of April 2016) that CHRL have considered erecting notices with the contact number of the charity in case of further incidents. We have not yet seen these notices on display at the crossing.

Given the current level of use by rail traffic, with only a few of the 6 lines in operation, we can expect the quality of the crossing to deteriorate further for walkers should the line become fully operational. Will the Applicant be forced to erect notices on the crossing warning “Not suitable for crossing by the elderly, people using wheeled walking aids or pushchairs”?

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CHRL has made no comment on (redacted) point that, at a time of reduced public spending, (redacted) fails to see how Shropshire Council can justify expenditure on Middleton Road Bridge and, in particular, lowering trackbed at Gasworks Bridge.

It is not for CHRL to explain or justify how the local authority makes spending decisions, and this is not a matter relevant to the transfer order application.

 

However, CHRL would point out that only Gasworks Bridge is specifically referred to in the lease and that the lease provides that the costs and works must be approved by the Council prior to the commencement of those works.

 

CHRL understands that the propping of the Gasworks Bridge was carried out to ensure the road was compliant with legislative requirements for 44 ton vehicles.

 

The tone of (redacted) representations might suggest that Gasworks Bridge is in a highly dilapidated condition, but this is far from the case.

The damage to Middleton Road Bridge parapet as the result of a road traffic impact falls to be repaired by Shropshire Council irrespective of the railway.

We would point out again that the DfT has stated that ALL information will be considered in respect of the transfer Order, and that we have repeatedly informed the Applicant of this fact, yet they continue to withhold information on the basis that they don’t feel it to be “relevant” to the transfer application.

 

To make our point clearer, after a number of years of cutbacks to essential services (care, health, highways, libraries etc) and a projected £74 million to come, it is difficult for us as rate payers and tax payers to understand how such major structural work can be justified for a tourist attraction.

 

We agree that the Gasworks Bridge was propped to make it compliant with heavy vehicles well over 10 years ago. The Applicant will concede that as part of the propping process the track bed was removed from under the bridge and heavy scaffolding was erected to support the structure. The removal of the supports would weaken the structure considerably. The surface tarmac on the road above is also in a poor state.

 

Is it the Applicant’s intention to actually remove the supporting scaffold and lower the track bed to allow the passage of a train?

 

It is our understanding that CHRL approached Shropshire Council to carry out repair work on the Middleton Road Bridge. We agree that it is now entirely the responsibility of Shropshire Council to make the bridge safe for over traffic now that the authority has purchased the line, but our contention here is that the Applicant is already requesting repairs to be made for under traffic at this point even though legally they have no consents to run trains underneath the structure.

We would state again that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

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The Consultation Report remains unchanged from that of March 2015 and is therefore out of date

The Consultation Report was submitted in support of the application and is compliant with the Applications Rules. The Rules do not envisage that the Consultation Report, once submitted, is updated during the process of determination of the application.

In this context, what exactly does the Applicant mean by “The Rules do not envisage that the Consultation Report, once submitted, is updated during the process of determination of the application”? The original Consultation Report is a factually incorrect document.

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CHRL has not demonstrated in any way that it has the support of the local people of Gobowen, Whittington, Oswestry, Oswestry Rural, Porth-Y-Waen or Blodwel.

Parish and Town Councils were consulted as described in the Consultation Report and public events were held.

 

The development of the Oswestry 2020 Town Plan was community led and demonstrates clear support for the railway, as do the letters of support appended to the Consultation Report.

CHRL notes the very limited number of objections to the proposed Order from local residents (a total of 3).

To make ourselves clear to the Applicant, we have seen no evidence of support from the other communities through which the line to be restored passes, namely Gobowen, Whittington, Oswestry, Oswestry Rural, Porth-Y-Waen or Blodwel.

We notice the very limited number of letters of support to the proposed Order from organisations with an interest along the whole 8.5 miles of line compared to the original 5 individuals that you’ve failed to reassure and the 2 statutory bodies.

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(Redacted) suspects that CHRL is seeking Community Infrastructure Levy Funds.

There are numerous, and entirely legitimate, potential funding streams that CHRL will investigate as it continues to develop its proposals for the restoration of the branch line. It cannot be criticised for seeking funds from legitimate sources and it is difficult to see how this point has any relevance to the transfer order or CHRL’s fitness to receive the powers to be conferred by it.

The Applicant is reminded that the line is leased to the charity by Shropshire Council, to which we contribute as rate payers, and the transfer Order refers to responsibilities currently held by Network Rail, that we contribute to as tax payers. We would point out that the contribution of match funding for the transfer Order is partly, if not wholly funded by tax payers. Finally, we would remind the Applicant that almost all other projects it has used to restore and maintain its assets have been funded from the public purse, be it local, central or European grants.

 

We would criticise the implied allocation of CIL money as it would deprive much more worthy projects that would benefit the whole community.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

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CHRL struggles to attract volunteers.

CHRL does not agree.

 

Approximately 10 percent of CHRL’s membership actively participates in its operations. CHRL believes this figure is in line with other heritage railway operations.

 

As set out in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail’s “Report on the Value of Heritage Railways” dated July 2013 (Document 1); “Since the start of the railway preservation movement, there have been worriers about the ability of railways to retain sufficiently skilled staff, especially volunteers, to operate the railway. Originally the concern was about the specialist skills such as boiler-making, required to continue steam operation. Later on, there was a concern that the sheer number of railways reopening would stretch the available labour resources too thinly. Neither has proved to be true. ...Similarly the numbers of volunteers working on heritage railways have continued to grow...”

CHRL’s membership is increasing. It increased by 20% over the year from January 2015 to approximately 500, of which half are life members. The making of the Order is expected to add to this momentum.

Anecdotal reports have reached us that the Applicant struggles to maintain its low level of services with its existing voluntary workforce.

 

We would point out that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail’s “Report on the Value of Heritage Railways” enclosed with the most recent written representation from the Applicant was published in July 2013, a full 5 years after Shropshire County Council took a unilateral decision, without public consultation to purchase the Oswestry branch line. The decision to purchase was taken over one year after the Scott Wilson Railways published the Chester-Shrewsbury Rail Partnership Final Report (commissioned by Shropshire County Council, Oswestry Borough Council and a number of other authorities). The report stated that there was little potential market for a heritage passenger train service between Oswestry and Gobowen.

 

We would also point out that the “Report on the Value of Heritage Railways” only mentions the Cambrian Railways Trust in its “List of Heritage Railways and Associated Societies in the United Kingdom”. It does not mention CHRL which is the subject of the transfer Order.

On membership, we can only take the Applicant’s word on any change in numbers as they are not obliged to release this information. We would point out that “life membership” is no guarantee of competence and responsibility to control 8.5 miles of publically owned land, much of it through the centre of Oswestry. Further, we would add that increased membership does not necessarily equate to more volunteers. The Applicant produces no evidence that membership would increase should their transfer application succeed.

The Cambrian Railways Society Limited (Light Maintenance Depot) Licence Exemption 2004 does not provide powers to operate a passenger service or to cross the level crossing at Coney Green.

Article 7 of the Oswestry Light Railway Order 1995 makes provision for crossing of the Coney Green level crossing and Schedule 2 of that Order sets out the safety devices to be provided and relevant requirements. The ORR is satisfied that CHRL has the requisite legal powers and consents to carry out its operations.

Article 7 of the Oswestry Light Railway Order 1995 makes provision for crossing the Coney Green level crossing without passengers. Said document requires the railway operator to obtain prior written permission from the Secretary of State if they want to convey passengers. Neither CRS, CRT or CHRL have this written permission.

 

Considering the difficulties the elderly and people with mobility problems have traversing the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing at its current low use by trains (see recent local press reports included with our further written representation of 22 February 2016), what plans have CHRL drafted to make life easier for these groups when all the lines at that location are opened and in regular use?

Further, has any independent body ever done an audit on the number of pedestrians that use the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing?

Criticism of ORR.

CHRL cannot comment on correspondence between (redacted) and the ORR.

The Applicant is extremely keen to describe its long association with the ORR and would understandably seek to support the regulator as it depends on their approval for the transfer Order.

(Redacted) can take a wider, more dispassionate view of the organisation based on its performance on this particular project and personal experience.

It is CHRL that is applying for the TWA Order, not CRT or CRS who are currently providing services in Oswestry and Llynclys.

The agreement between CRT and CRS of 20 November 2009 envisages the coming together of those organisations as Cambrian Heritage Railways.

Here the Applicant appears to be playing with words. CHRL has been in existence since 2009 and it is our understanding that this staff and marketing company is seeking the transfer Order. But CRT and CRS are still operating independent railway services completely unconnected, except for the shared use of a vintage bus that ferries passengers between services on special event days.

 

What exactly does the Applicant mean by “The agreement...envisages the coming together of those organisations as Cambrian Heritage Railways”?

 

We are aware that the membership of CRS and CRT have merged, but beyond that we have no further clear information.

We are still unclear how a staff and marketing charity, not operating any railway services can apply for a transfer Order. This question remains unanswered.

Why is it that another company (CHRL) providing staff and marketing services is relying on the history of CRT and CRS to apply for the transfer Order?

There is no reason why (redacted) should be aware of CHRL’s staffing arrangements. CHRL is a properly constituted company and registered charity and complies with its reporting responsibilities in both those capacities.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

To make the question clear, this project is reliant on public funds, so we are quite within our rights to ask what Directors fees and expenses the current Board of the Applicant benefit from.

Why is it that another company (CHRL) providing staff and marketing services is relying on the history of CRT and CRS to apply for the transfer Order?

This question is responded to at item 16 above.

Our response is highlighted at item 16.

When (redacted) requested a copy of the business plan from Shropshire Council via a FOIR request it was told that the Council did not have one.

As stated in paragraph 3.1.5 of its written representations, CHRL cannot comment on those aspects of the objection that relate only to the Council.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

We would point out that the authority displays a lack of good practice by not retaining a document on which it chose long term  to commit so much public money on. The Applicant has demonstrated in its written representations on numerous occasions an unwillingness to provide the requested plan leaving our only recourse to approach the authority.

We cannot understand why the Applicant refuses to release this document that it describes as purely of “historic” interest only.

CHRL has made no comment on the fractious relationship between CRT and CRS prior to the merger in 2009.

CHRL has made no comment on this point because it is not clear what point is being made, given that (redacted) is referring to a period well over 6 years ago.

Many of the current executive members of both organisations work for the Applicant now. They are well able to comment. Please enlighten us now.

Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016 draws attention to CRT and CRS displaying “a reluctance to work together”. We have also received verbal information from ex councillors that hint at open hostility between the two charities, but we note the Applicant continues to refuse to comment on this aspect.

CHRL has made no comment on how powers granted separately to CRS and CRT were inherited by CHRL when the only merger was of membership.

CRT and CRS remain in existence and have their separate powers but to all intents and purposes they present a single offering to the public. This is in accordance with the agreement entered into in November 2009 as explained above and in CHRL’s written representations.

The nature and details of the merger were not given in the written representation. Please clarify the exact nature of the relationship between the two organisations and its connection with the Applicant and the Cross Border of Tourism Group (as created by Oswestry Borough Council and adopted by Shropshire Council in 2009, see response to item 1 above).

Did Shropshire Council get CHRL to sign a formal document to allow it to carry out clearance work on the land since it was purchased in 2008?

See paragraph 3.4 of CHRL’s written representations.

The Council was at liberty, as owner of the railway land, to allow third parties onto the land to carry out works that were not dependent upon statutory powers. Formal arrangements were entered into between Shropshire County Council and CRS and CRT which were overtaken in due course by the lease of 2014.

We request to see copies of these documents and details of the nature of the work carried out on land owned by Shropshire rate payers.

We would point out that at the time of the clearance work (pre-signing of the lease in April 2014), not only was the land owned by Shropshire (County) Council, but the line was the responsibility of Network Rail (as is the case now for rail transport up until the transfer Order has been granted). We would therefore ask if the Applicant sort the permission of Network Rail to make any material changes to the line itself?

Did the Council carry out any risk assessment on the people working in its land?

It is not for CHRL to second guess what, if any, assessments were considered necessary by the Council.

CRS and CRT will have submitted Risk Assessments to Shropshire Council, especially if the work they carried out involved using blades, lifting, moving, clearance, powered equipment in an isolated location.

We would like to see these documents to insure that good practice has taken place on Shropshire rate payer owned land.

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(Redacted) notes the indication that David Keay of the ORR had some form of relationship with CHRL as far back as 2011.

This is irrelevant to the transfer, albeit indicative of the complete lack of understanding on the part of (redacted) of the supervisory role of the ORR in relation to heritage railways.

The Applicant is reminded again that the DfT have stated that all information is considered in deciding whether to grant a transfer Order.

David Keay’s lengthy relationship with the Applicant brings into question the ORR’s decision to defer an assessment of the use of the level crossing access to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre due to lack of time. The level crossing has been used as an access to the centre since 2012 giving David four years to make an assessment of the crossing.

CHRL has not acted in good faith as demonstrated by its amendments to the draft Order.

This allegation illustrates (redacted) lack of understanding of the TWA Order process. It is quite usual for applicants for TWA Orders to propose amendments to the application draft Order in response to concerns or other representations made by interested parties. The Secretary of State will be aware that there is nothing suspicious or underhand in this process.

This response from the Applicant begs the question, how many other applications have CHRL made for TWA Orders for them to feel sufficiently confident to accuse (redacted) of a “lack of understanding”?

 

The Applicant benefits from the services of a parliamentary solicitors, Winkworth Sherwood that specialise in representing clients seeking transfer Orders largely funded by public money. Whereas the individual objectors have had NO help from anyone.

 

We would state at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

We are confident that the Secretary of State will be aware that the objectors need not have to be experts in the TWA Order process to have very serious doubts about the competence of the Applicant to take full responsibility for a stretch of railway that runs through the centre of a market town.

CHRL appeared not to be aware of changes regarding level crossings procedure and legality until August 2015.

(Redacted) appears to be under the impression that there have been changes to law and procedure relating to level crossings. This is not the case. CHRL has been engaged with the ORR for many years regarding safety arrangements at crossings along the branch line. The attached email from David Keays dated 3 November 2014 (Document 2) demonstrates that CHRL was discussing designs for crossings of the A5 and A483 that were not on the level and which demonstrated to the satisfaction of the ORR that risks at those crossings could be reduced to a level as low as reasonably practicable.

We have pointed out in the timeline of our latest written representation that Roger Date had publically described how the level crossing over the A5 at Pentre Clawdd would be operated from a heritage train as recently as February 2013. In their most recent written representation the Applicant admits that Mr Date was only setting out the position as it stood at that time – therefore something must have changed. 

 

We find it difficult to understand, given the Applicant’s long standing relationship with the ORR, that neither organisation appeared aware of the report published in  December 2011 titledRailway Safety Publication 7 Level Crossings: A guide for managers, designers and operators” in which it states “2. ORR seeks to influence duty holders and others to reduce risk at Britain’s level crossings. It does this through a variety of means ranging from advice to formal enforcement action. ORR checks that preventive and protective measures are implemented in accordance with the principles of prevention set out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Risk control should, where practicable, be achieved through the elimination of level crossings in favour of bridges, underpasses or diversions. Where elimination is not possible, ORR aims to ensure that duty holders reduce risk so far as is reasonably practicable and in accordance with the principles of protection.”

The report was published by the ORR.

Information relating to the ORR’s position in relation to the A5 and A483 crossings and ORR concerns about other level crossings was kept from the membership.

The Order as submitted was inconsistent with the report of talks between CHRL and the ORR given by the CHRL Chairman just a few months before the application was submitted.

(Redacted) appears to be suggesting that CHRL withheld information from its members at a time when it was seeking membership renewals and financial contributions. CHRL strongly refutes any such suggestion and (redacted) Document 14 certainly does not bear this out.

The status of the ongoing discussions with the ORR and Highways Agency (Highways England) was presented to members at the November 2014 AGM. This included the presentation of the indicative plans for the proposed bridge and underpass that had been shared with the ORR (see Document 2).

Would the Applicant care to comment on its strategy to get payments from people who have their own assets (carriages and trucks) stored along the line since the lease was signed in April 2014?

 

At the time the document referred to was distributed to its membership (Cambrian Lines Winter 2014/15), would the Applicant agree that membership fees were being sought?

 

Did the Applicant give any indication to the membership of how much extra the addition of the bridge and underpass would have on the whole restoration project?

 

Further, we notice here (from Document 3 of the further written representation from the Applicant of April 2016), David Keay appears to suggest that the ORR had no objection to the submission of a Transport and Work Act Order on viewing indicative designs for a tunnel under the A5 and a bridge over the A483.

 

Just months later, after seeing the draft transfer Order with the Report on Consultation from the Applicant, John Gillespie of the ORR wrote to the DfT formally objecting to the Order.

This would indicate confusion on the part of the ORR, an organisation we are critical of elsewhere in this document.

An article in the local paper in the summer of 2015 included statements from CHRL director inconsistent with the ORR’s position.

CHRL does not agree that the CHRL’s director’s statements were inconsistent with the ORR’s position. His comments reflected discussions concerning an engineering train that were ongoing with the ORR at that time. The article does, however, include a certain amount of journalistic “licence” which was outside CHRL’s control.

We approached the Head of News at the newspaper in question with the Applicant’s comments regarding journalistic licence  and invited her to respond. She chose to say “No comment”.

 

We note that the double page spread that appeared in the newspaper also included a hand drawn map. Would the Applicant care to comment on from where the map came?

Further, we approached the journalist who ran the story about the elderly lady (named in the newspaper report along with general details of what street she lives on) who fell on the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing earlier this year. We asked the reporter if, when he approached the Communications Manager of CHRL, he was asked for the contact details of the person that fell so that a more detailed Accident Report could be filled in. The reporter failed to respond.

At a meeting in 2011, CHRL’s representative expressed bullish views about a potential A5 crossing.

(Redacted) is referring to a meeting over 5 years ago; well before the transfer Order was submitted. The transfer Order specifically provides that the A5 may not be crossed on the level.

In their further written representation of April 2016 the Applicant mentions that they have had a good working relationship with the ORR in the forms of CHRL, CRS and CRT. These latter two organisations pre-date the meeting in 2011, as does the formation of CHRL in 2009. In addition, by 2011 funds for the purchase of a transfer Order via the Local Sustainable Transport Fund had been pencilled in. As such CHRL’s representatives and the ORR must have been fully aware of the position regarding level crossings over the A5 and the A483. In 2013 the Applicant was still publically saying that the traffic at these two crossings would have to make way for the restored line.

CHRL has made no comment regarding the escalating cost of restoring the whole railway line taking into account the need to cross the two trunk roads by bridge/underpass and potential increased costs at other crossings.

See paragraph 1.8 of CHRL’s written representations. The restoration of the branch line is a project that will be undertaken in phases.

 

As specific proposals are worked up they will take account of all relevant circumstances and will be costed in the usual way. Funding will be sought from a variety of sources, as is normal for heritage and community railway projects.

Figures presented to members and others in recent years have reflected the timescales and costs that were considered pertinent at the time.

Considering that the plan is to restore the line in phases, and that certain elements such as crossing the A483 and A5 are reliant on capitally funded projects such as the widening of the A5 including an underpass for the railway, what assurances has the Applicant received from Highways England that this extra funding will be available solely for the railway restoration project?

 

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

This represents an unprecedented investment by a public authority, with absolutely no guarantee that the cost to local rate payers will not continue to escalate.

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CHRL threatened to use compulsory purchase powers by letter dated 28 August 2013.

Once again, (redacted) is referring to historical matters that are not relevant to the application that is before the Secretary of State. Further, the allegations indicates a lack of understanding on the part of (redacted) of the law relating to railway infrastructure projects and the provisions for railway undertakers to seek to acquire land by compulsory acquisition in the event that they can justify a compelling need for the land in the public interest (which would be outside the scope of this transfer Order in any event).

In this instance, (redacted) is referring to a “Without Prejudice” letter that merely spelt out that CHRL reserved its right to pursue the acquisition of certain land through compulsory purchase. It was not a threat.

The DfT have stated that all information is considered in deciding whether to grant a transfer Order.

 

As we have stated, this material is included as a further example of the Applicant’s unprofessional and bullish behaviour and the way they justify such activity as being lawful for railway infrastructure projects.

 

Obviously, the owner of the land in question to which the Applicant sent the letter took a contrary view as evidenced by the corresponding reply by his solicitors (Document 16 of the 22 February 2016 written representation). To be clear, the recipient of the letter from the Applicant expressing an intention to make a compulsory purchase of his privately owned land did perceive it as threatening.

At that time, the Applicant had no rights to make a compulsory purchase of privately owned land it was highly unprofessional for them to make representations of the kind that they did.

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Criticism of Oswestry Council’s support of the railway.

CHRL agrees that Oswestry Town Council has had a long involvement with the project, supports it and has included it in the Town Plan.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

CHRL has made no comment on the fact that representatives of CRT attended talks in London with Owen Paterson MP.

There is no need for CHRL to comment and it is not even clear what point is being made by (redacted). This was a meeting in 2003 which predates the formation of CHRL. Owen Paterson has made no secret of his support for the railway over many years.

CRT (and by association CHRL) were in attendance at a meeting with Owen Paterson MP in London to discuss the purchase of the branch line for the purposes other than that of restoring the line. We would like CHRL to confirm this.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

The Town Plan was written before the ORR’s letter to the TWAO of April 2015.

Whilst it is true that crossing the A5 other than on the level is likely to increase the costs of the project (although costs associated with a level crossing would no longer be incurred), there is no reason to suspect this would affect the principle of support for the project evident from the Town Plan.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

The exclusion of information regarding the ORR’s stipulation that the A5 and A483 would not be crossed on the level, and the talks that the Applicant were having at that time with the regulator would mean increasing the costs of restoring the line by multi-millions. As such the authority which undertook a political and financial commitment to the project, and that specifically represents the rate payers of Oswestry was denied information of the substantial escalation of costs for the restoration.

Although as the Applicant knows, (redacted) are not experts at running a railway, we would guess that the savings associated with the not having to restore the two level crossings would be outweighed by the costs of building a brand new bridge and underpass for a railway.

The Town Plan does not specifically identify CHRL as an organisation capable of bringing about restoration of the rail link.

Policy LE10 of the Town Plan identifies CHRL as a delivery partner alongside Shropshire Council and Oswestry Town Council (see extract at Document 3).

See paragraph 2.6.3 of the Consultation Report and letter of support from the Town Council appended to the Consultation Report.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

The North Shropshire and Oswestry Visitor economy Strategy and Action Plans were commissioned by Shropshire Council and so are naturally biased in favour of the project.

The document is concerned with a journey that “goes somewhere” and is therefore out of date because it pre-dates the ORR’s comments on level crossings.

This document was prepared by independent consultants. In any event, there is no reason to suppose that there was any bias in the preparation of the Action Plans. The tourism plan identifies the opportunities that can be derived from a heritage railway and a connection from Oswestry to the national rail network.

 

The Council has entered into a lease of its railway land with CHRL to enable the restoration of the line to be bought forward and evidently regards CHRL as an appropriate transferee of the statutory powers and burdens that the Order would confer.

There is no reason to suspect that the findings of the report would be different merely because the manner of crossing the A5 has changed.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

We have heard of plans to run a non-heritage service between Gobowen Station and the Orthopaedic Hospital.

 

Is the Applicant or Shropshire Council aware of the Atkins Report commissioned by the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority into the role of heritage railways operating commuter services?

 

The results indicate that heritage railways would have to comply with Network Rail Rules and Regulations, thus making such a connection incompatible.

There is every reason to suggest that the additional cost of the construction of a bridge or underpass to allow the railway to connect to the main line would substantially change the risk/cost/benefit of the entire project.   

Network Rail do not run trains along the line so have little maintenance responsibility.

Network Rail has statutory responsibility for the branch line sold to the Council, but no interest in the land comprising that branch line.

To clarify our point, Network Rail do not run trains along the 8.5 miles of track, so its responsibilities are negligible. The Applicant intends to run a service through the centre of a market town, across two public level crossings, across two access routes (the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre and the Children’s Funhouse/Antiques Emporium) and a much used pedestrian level crossing that, since the Applicant resumed limited operations in Oswestry, has resulted in ever increasing incidents of people with mobility issues having problems accessing the town centre.

CHRL does not have the resources to secure, police and maintain the track.

Redacted) produces no evidence in support of its contention that CHRL lacks the necessary resources to secure, police and maintain the railway.

Since 2009, CHRL has cleared and maintained 8.5 miles of railway, including regular weed-killing, and in recent years it has refurbished sections of track in Oswestry to a high standard. Materials have been purchased to complete the refurbishment of further sections of track. CHRL’s has the knowledge base, resources and volunteer numbers to achieve its current aims, including regular working parties which travel the length of the railway to carry out repairs and maintenance activities.

We have included a photograph of a fallen fence in our representation. We note that the Applicant regularly uses the services of the unemployed to do track restoration as they don’t have the necessary voluntary workforce to carry out these duties.

 

We have already pointed to a history of anti-social behaviour and vandalism the Applicant has suffered to what few assets they do own. We would encourage the Applicant now to release information regarding all other incidents of anti-social and criminal activity from which the organisation has suffered to give the Secretary of State a clearer idea of how secure the whole 8.5 miles of track is.

To restate the position, the line to be restored runs through the centre of Oswestry town, close to a large children’s play area. 

CHRL has made no comment on the fact that 900m of track at Gobowen station is still owned by Network Rail.

This land has been acquired by CHRL from Network Rail.

See response at item 3, row 2 above.

(Redacted) “understands” that CHRL has been having problems recruiting active volunteers.

See item 14 above.

See response 31, row 2 immediately below.

CHRL has been using the “Payback Team” and unemployed to undertake track works.

CHRL has been working with Job Centre Plus on a Government project to assist the young unemployed to gain confidence and experience through work experience.

 

CHRL has provided work for teams of six job-seeking volunteers, all of whom have received relevant safety training. Various construction tasks have been achieved which benefit the railway whilst giving the young people concerned the confidence and fulfilment that comes from a day’s work well done. The CHRL scheme has proved very successful, with 90% of the young people concerned going on to obtain paid employment through the local Job Centre.

 

CHRL suggests that, to the extent that issue is relevant at all to the TWA application, it is indicative of its fitness to receive the powers to be transferred by the proposed Order.

The “Pay Back” scheme is for offenders carrying out community sentences and is not supervised by CHRL. It provides general litter picking up and clearance of weeds etc.

This clearly demonstrates that the Applicant has been unable to enthuse and acquire a local voluntary workforce necessary to undertake the less romantic aspects of running a heritage railway.

 

We would hope that the Applicant has made a note of the names of all the unemployed individuals that have helped their restoration project so far and pay tribute to them should the project come to fruition and becomes the multi-million pound tourism wealth generator that the Applicant dreams of.

 

We would contend however, that the use of the unemployed to do the work of people that should have volunteered if the project had the local support, as the Applicant suggests, is as indicative of its fitness to receive the powers of the proposed Order as it is of the many charity retailers in the area that similarly benefit from the services of the young unemployed.

 

As to the “Pay Back” scheme, it is our understanding that CHRL (or its associates) commissioned them to do some kind of clearance work on the railway track and that some damage was caused to passing motorists.

 

Again, this is an issue of openness and transparency. We ask only for clarification.

It is deeply disturbing that the ORR had a relationship with both CRT and CRS prior to the merger in 2009. ORR naivety regarding the number of level crossings is deeply disturbing.

The criticisms of the ORR indicate that (redacted) does not understand the role of the ORR.

We understand entirely that the ORR is a tax payer public rail and road regulator. We understand that the ORR has a long relationship with the Applicant and its predecessors. The ORR has stated that despite their long association with the charity they have not had enough time to do a proper assessment of the access road to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre.

See also item 22, row 3, paragraphs 4 and 5.

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The active volunteer workforce of CHRL is inadequate.

Se item 14.

See response at item 31 above.

(Redacted) has seen no evidence of considerable rolling stock.

CHRL stock is identified on its website. It consists of carriages, trucks, diesel multiple units and engineering vehicles. There are also four steam locomotives in various states of repair.

To clarify our position, we are aware of a borrowed steam locomotive being used with a guardsman’s carriage to (illegitimately) convey passengers in Oswestry, but we are not aware of any serviceable carriages in Oswestry. For any service to be profitable it will have to convey a number of people per excursion, and this means the use of carriages, specifically in Oswestry.

We are aware of a small number of refurbished carriages in Llynclys and a number of carriages in very dilapidated states at the same location, but let’s be clear, the Applicant do not have “considerable” amounts of serviceable rolling stock.

CHRL has operated an illegitimate passenger service in Oswestry.

See item 1 above. As (redacted) document 31 makes clear, CHRL has been operating at all times in accordance with the requirements and consent of the ORR.

See our response at item 1.

 

It is still unclear that any such written consent exists or has ever existed. The ORR’s official position is that they don’t have a copy of the “original consent”. We have enquired via a FOIR regarding the exact date that consent was given and who gave it, but the ORR has not provided this information.

We can only conclude that without documentary evidence to prove the contrary, the passenger service operating in Oswestry for many years is illegitimate.

CHRL has been less than open and transparent:

 

-grey areas over level crossings.

 

-withholding of information during consultation.

 

-misrepresentation of the position of the ORR.

-bullish and unprofessional attitude.

CHRL does not agree that it has been less transparent.

(Redacted) comments regarding the ORR and level crossings generally indicate a lack of understanding of relevant legislation and role of the ORR. CHRL does not accept, and (redacted) presents no evidence that it has withheld any information during consultation, misrepresented the position of the ORR or that it has a bullish and unprofessional attitude generally.

We would point to the redrafted transfer Order is not clear enough on the level crossings over the Coney Green, the A495, School Lane, and the access routes to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre and the Children’s Funhouse/Antiques Emporium, the use of the phrase not crossing the A5 and A483 on the level as examples of grey areas.

 

We would point to not informing the membership of legitimate nominees to the Board of CHRL being excluded from the vote at the AGM in November 2013 and their continued silence on this issue and not referencing the level crossings at School Lane, the A495 and the access routes to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre and to the Children’s Funhouse/Antiques Emporium as examples of withholding information during the consultation.

 

We would point to their statement in the Report on Consultation that as they had received no feedback from the ORR regarding the transfer order they believed there was no objection, as a misrepresentation of the original formal position of the ORR at that time.

We would point to the letter sent to the owner of Llynclys House expressing an intention to make a compulsory purchase of some of the land associated with the property as one example of a bullish and unprofessional attitude (see Document 16 of the written representation of 22 February 2016).

-cosy relationship with local authorities, individual councillors and the MP.

CHRL has good professional relationships with local authorities and councillors with whom it is involved and a good working relationship with its local MP. It would be more concerning if CHRL had poor relationships with these bodies and individuals

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

And of course, Owen Paterson MP introduced the element of restoring the line into wider talks with the original owners of the land at his London meeting of 2003.

-reliance on public funding.

In common with most heritage railways, CHRL has a variety of funding streams, including a turnover from its existing railway operations of approximately £100,000 in its last financial year.

In no way will profits generated from £100,000 of turnover pay for a new bridge and an underpass. It won’t pay for the necessary improvements to the Gasworks Bridge or any restoration to the Gobowen Station. However, it would pay for some of the director’s salaries.

 

There is no question that the restoration project, in its various forms, have benefited from a huge injection of public money even to maintain its current low level of operations.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

-lack of resources and assets.

CHRL does not agree that it lacks resources or assets as is evidenced by its success in developing the railway offering since 2009 and the support it has attracted from key local stakeholders, including the Member of Parliament.

We have demonstrated that the Applicant has very few resources and assets, depending as it does on a borrowed steam engine for special events and the use of a number of council owned land and properties to which it pays peppercorn rates for the lease.

 

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

The Applicant is reminded that Owen Paterson was responsible for starting talks regarding the purchase of the line in 2003 placing an emphasis on the development of the heritage restoration project when originally Shropshire Council’s involvement was only to gain control of maintenance of road over rail structures.

 

To be clear, CHRL operations did not attract Owen Paterson as a key local stakeholder – he was the instigator and driving force of the project before Shropshire (County) Council’s involvement in the project.

 

He remains closely associated with the project to this day, despite his Euro-sceptic credentials, grants from which the restoration projected has benefitted from.

 

Perhaps the Applicant would like to declare how much involvement Owen Paterson MP has in CRS, CRT, CHRL, The Cross Border of Tourism Group and Shropshire Council?

-inability to keep existing assets secure.

With regard to security, (redacted) comment is a reference to an arson attack on CHRL’s signal box in 2012. The person responsible was imprisoned for this offence and two others locally. The attack was not the result of any lack of security on the part of CHRL. Rather, it was symptomatic of petty vandalism in Oswestry generally.

The cutting from the Advertizer dated 22 February 2006, coupled with the later shed fire suggest that there is a history of “petty vandalism in Oswestry” close to the centre of CHRL operations.

 

In August 2005 it was announced that funding by Oswestry Borough Council and Advantage West Midlands would be used for the restoration of the signal box in Oswestry at a cost of £22,000, £2,458.10 of which was spent on re-roofing the building alone. Just 6 months later vandals had caused £700 of damage to the restored signal box. The broken windows were thought to be caused by children throwing stones. As the signal box is a listed building the glass had to be replaced, but the installation of lighting and a CCTV system was also considered.

 

The signal box in question now has all of its windows covered in metal mesh. As an aside, in 2016 the signal box is now showing signs of timber rot, indicating that the building has been poorly maintained since its restoration.

 

As there are no storage facilities for carriages in Oswestry, and as the restoration is stated to happen in phases, meaning any out of Oswestry on track storage facilities won’t become available for a considerable amount of time, we can only assume that they will be left on the track when not in use, making them vulnerable to vandalism.

 

What extra security precautions will CHRL undertake to ensure that a similar incident doesn’t occur considering the Oswestry Station is located close to a large children’s play area (Wilfred Owen Green)?

Are we to expect that the windows of stored carriages will be similarly covered in wire mesh to deter vandals?

-poor financial acumen.

CHRL disputes (redacted) allegation that it has poor financial acumen. This allegation is based upon the underlined part of (redacted) Document 1, which is an extract from the Joint Treasurers Report for the year 2012-2013. It refers to the detection of misuse of funds by one of CHRL’s members. As the report makes clear, appropriate steps were taken to ensure there was no loss to CHRL and changes were implemented to ensure it could not happen again. In no way could this episode reasonably be interpreted to suggest that CHRL is not a fit and proper body to receive the powers to be transferred by the Order.

Shropshire Council, owners of the land, have in theory a duty to be open and transparent to its’ rate payers but the Applicant has no such obligations, so although the land is publically owned, we have no say on making the accounts of the Applicant publically available or taking any action should funds be misused in any way.

-inability to attract volunteers.

See item 14.

See our response at item 31, row 2.

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-totally unfit to hold the powers to be conferred by the Order.

CHRL refutes (redacted) allegation that it is unfit to receive the powers to be transferred by the Order. CHRL is a properly constituted limited company and registered charity which has been running trains at Oswestry and Llynclys for years. It has the support of Shropshire Council and Oswestry Town Council, as well as other local organisations. Indeed, Shropshire Council which chose to provide match funding to enable CHRL to make the Order application. The body charged with overseeing heritage railways (the ORR) has explicitly stated that it has no in principle objection to CHRL being transferee of the statutory powers and burdens relating to the railway. CHRL’s members have a raft of relevant skills including legal professionals, accountants, builders, serving main-line railway management and operating staff, engineers and volunteers with previous experience of heritage railway projects.

We draw the Applicant’s attention once more to the grey area surrounding the legitimacy of the passenger operations in Oswestry (see our response at item 1).

 

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

We refer to the original misrepresentation of the position of the ORR’s position in the original Report on Consultation and the grey areas concerning the level crossings to the Children’s Funhouse/Antiques Emporium, the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre (that the ORR has been unable to assess dues to lack of available time), the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing (that has seen a recent increase in difficulties for people with mobility problems using it since railway services at weekends were reinstated), the A495 and School Lane.

The Applicant has not provided any documentation that demonstrates any active members have any accredited experience in operating a railway service.

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That the group behind the application is entirely the creation of local council authorities and lacks the numbers, experience or finances to manage such a large scale and difficult project.

See paragraph 3.1 of CHRL’s written representations.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

In addition the Applicant has made no comment on how Oswestry Borough Council (later superseded by Shropshire Council) created The Cross Border of Tourism Group and CHRL via the appointment of Nigel Davies bringing CRT and CRS together in 2009.

CHRL has made no comment on the fact that Shropshire Council purchased the line only in part to develop a heritage railway (ref: redacted’s Document 11).

See Document 2 to CHRL’s written representations (the lease). CHRL’s covenants under the lease include at clause 5.19 a commitment to “allow the Council to construct, maintain and operate a footway/cycleway within the Demise along a route to be advised by the Council provided that this does not prevent CHR from using and operating the Demise for the Permitted Use and provided further that CHR will not complete any works or do anything within the Demise that will knowingly prevent the construction and operation of the footway/cycleway.”

 

Under paragraph 9 “Current Proposal” of the Shropshire Council Cabinet Report dated 18 May 2004 (OBJ/3 Document 11) it states:

“The County Council would seek a long lease on the remaining land with an organisation that would operate a heritage railway”.

We would state at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

Said document also states “The County Council would identify and retain the land required to construct and maintain R31 (Cycle Route 31)...” in the bullet point immediately above the one quoted by the Applicant.

 

As an aside, we note that the Applicant has finally acknowledged Document 11 and is also happy to selectively quote from it.

The Council approved the purchase of the line without receiving the robust business plan (ref: redacted’s Document 18).

CHRL is not responsible for the decisions of Shropshire Council. However, it notes that Document 18 does not demonstrate that the Council approved the purchase of the line without having all relevant information, including a business plan, to hand. It says that the Council does not currently hold such plan. At the relevant time, CHRL did not exist but the Council was in receipt of a business plan from CRT.

CHRL also notes that Document 18 refers to “enabling a heritage railway proposal”.

The fact that CRT submitted a business plan is newly presented information, but was it the Shropshire County Council required “robust business plan” and why didn’t the authority retain a copy?

 

The Applicant does not make it clear that this document was created and submitted to the authority before the branch line was purchased, or that the information contained within the submitted business plan was sufficiently robust enough to make the purchase of the line a viable proposition.

We were told by Shropshire Council’s Community Enablement Officer that he understood that the Applicant was preparing an “updated” business plan in 2013, but no one seems to have seen anything of it either.

CHRL has made no comment on the fact that no consultation was carried out with rate payers or people with properties bordering the line prior to the purchase of the line (by the Council) in 2008 or the signing off of the lease to CHRL in 2014.

CHRL notes that members of the Council are democratically elected and charged with making decisions such as these on behalf of their electorate. As for pre-acquisition consultation, CHRL understands that the disposal of land by Network Rail was advertised in accordance with requirements to allow representations to be made. The intended acquisition by the council and intended use for the railway received a lot of local publicity at the time. As far as CHRL is aware, there was no requirement for other consultation by the Council.

We note that CHRL is not able to confirm the number of Shropshire Councillors that support the restoration project and whether said elected members made a point of making their political and financial support (as detailed in Document 11 appended to the written representation of 22 February 2016) part of the manifesto on which they were elected.

We would also point out that in 2016 Shropshire Council is engaged in “The Big Conversation”, a county wide consultation with rate payers about how best the authority can deliver on its commitments in the tightened financial climate. We note that its political and financial commitment to the restoration project isn’t even on the agenda.

CHRL has made no comment on the assets in the ownership of Shropshire Council that it relies upon for its railway operations:

 

8.5 miles of track

 

All rail over road structures, including bridges and level crossings.

 

The Park Hall Halt Platform.

 

The Gasworks Bridge.

 

The Old Oswestry Railway Station Platform.

 

The Old Oswestry Railway Station.

The Old Oswestry Railway Station Works.

CHRL is the lawful owner of the trackbed and other structures pursuant to the lease from Shropshire Council. The highway over-bridges remain in the control of the local authority. Park Hall Halt platform and those at Oswestry are within CHRL’s demise. The Old Oswestry Station is leased by the council to the Oswestry Station Building Trust which has no connection with CHRL, although they share the common theme of tourism. The lease included provisions for access and accommodation for CHRL which occupies Suite 1 at the Old Oswestry Station Building as its registered office.

CHRL is the tenant of the track bed, not the owner. Ownership remains with Shropshire Council, and therefore every ratepayer in the county.

 

When Shropshire County Council purchased the line in 2008 it made the authority responsible for bridges that cross the line. The problem here is that, now the Council has leased the line to the Applicant it has an obligation to make repairs to said structures not only for over traffic, but also for under traffic to. And under traffic will consist almost entirely of the Applicant in terms of requirements for the passage of locomotives (rather than walkers).

The Applicant seeks to be less than transparent regarding the Old Oswestry Railway Station; both Jennifer Mary Owen and Roger Date are registered directors of both Cambrian Heritage Railways Limited and the Oswestry Station Building Trust.

There still remains some confusion as to the ownership of the Cambrian Transport Museum.

There is no confusion. The building has been leased by CRS since 1972.

We have asked a question about the ownership of the Cambrian Transport Museum before. The confusion arises from the fact that we have not been given any information on ownership. Is it a privately owned property leased to CRS or is it another local authority building?

CHRL has made no comments on the meeting of 20 October 2003 organised by Owen Paterson MP (redacted’s Ref: Document 19), the purpose of which was to look into the possibility of SC purchasing the line to facilitate a number of different projects. The document refers to a pre-meeting in which emphasis was put on promoting National Cycling Route 31 as a way of persuading organisations to sell the branch line to the Council for reasons other than the restoration of the railway. Since then Mr Paterson has been active in pushing the restoration of the railway forward with no mention of the cycle route.

This meeting took place almost 13 years ago and pre-dates the formation of CHRL. CHRL does note that, in particular, the meeting was called to discuss the development of a heritage railway as well as access to the 5 acre development site in central Oswestry and that CRT were present and represented at that meeting. CHRL also notes that the scenario discussed in the pre-meeting was something that would also deliver the heritage railway. Owen Paterson has supported the railway for many years.

The Applicant’s appears to be asserting that all meetings and reports that pre-date the creation of CHRL in 2009 are irrelevant.

 

The Applicant makes no comment on the pre-meeting in which emphasis was put on promoting National Cycling Route 31 as a way of persuading railway organisations to sell the branch line to the Council for reasons other than the restoration of the railway. 

 

The Applicant doesn’t recognise the fact that initial talks were about the development of a cycle route – not a heritage railway.

Shropshire Council completely ignored the advice of the March 2007 Scott-Wilson Railway Report (redacted’s Ref: Document 32).

This report pre-dates the incorporation of CHRL and concentrates on the main Chester-Wrexham-Shrewsbury line. The work undertaken on the re-opening of the branch line was only a small part of the report and was based on desk-top studies. The report recommended that further studies be carried out.

 

Much has changed in the decade since the report was prepared, including a growth in the demand for rail travel. Gobowen station is a major railway hub for a wide area, with an hourly service from South Wales to Holyhead and from the West Midlands. There is good evidence for the potential success of a community railway between Gobowen and Oswestry. CHRL is aware that a significant number of passengers currently alight at Gobowen for onward travel to the Orthopaedic Hospital. The 15 minute bus service referred to in the 2007 report no longer operates and the only service runs half hourly.

 

Numbers provided on the ORR’s website confirm that in 2005/6 there were 145,211 passenger journeys via Gobowen station but the estimate for 2015/16 is over 200,000 (see extract Document 4).

In any event, CHRL cannot comment on Shropshire Councils decisions to which it was not a party. It does not know whether, or to what extent to which, the content of the report was taken into account by the Council. CHRL’s own anecdotal experience has been that visitors to its railway often stay in Oswestry overnight whilst visiting a number of railway and other heritage attractions in the area. The Cambrian branch railway is on the doorstep of a World Heritage Site and many tourists enjoy travelling around the area by train.

The Applicant’s appears to be asserting that all meetings and reports that pre-date the creation of CHRL in 2009 are irrelevant.

 

We note that the Applicant is unable to produce the “good evidence for the potential success of a community railway between Gobowen and Oswestry”. Does such a report exist and was it commissioned by Shropshire Council?

 

What independent audit has been undertaken that demonstrates “that a significant number of passengers currently alight at Gobowen for onward travel to the Orthopaedic Hospital”.

 

We would point out once more that the Scott Wilson Report was partly commissioned by Shropshire County Council and published almost a full year before the authority purchased the branch line. We can only assume that the authority ignored its findings.

 

There is also the problem of convenience; regular taxi and bus services currently run from, or conveniently close to Gobowen Station. Would commuters disembarking from the main line choose to wait around at the station for a branch train service to the Orthopaedic Hospital (or Oswestry) when they can catch much faster and regular modes of transport?

 

Would such a service be incredibly difficult to make cost effective, and therefore unlikely to be taken up by an independent operator? Indeed, Arriva Trains obviously sees no cost/benefit/return in running a shuttle service to and from the hospital.

 

Any credible service would have to be scheduled around the regular existing timetabled services on the mainline to prevent people from having to hang around. This would put an immense burden on an independent railway operator.

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What successful grant applications have benefited CHRL since 2009 and for what amounts?

CHRL has benefited from two grants since 2009: Market Town Revitalisation Programme funding of £29,000 with CHRL contributing £15,000 of match funding to a total project cost of £44,000 and a grant of £20,000 towards the cost of submitting this TWAO application from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

In fact the Applicant as a whole has benefited from a large number of grants and financial support as CHRL, CRS and CRT; £22,000 was supplied by Oswestry Borough Council (now Shropshire Council) and Advantage West Midlands for the restoration of the signal box, that is already showing signs of decay from poor maintenance.

 

The Applicant’s close relationship with the Oswestry Railway Station Trust has also benefited from £2.15 million in 2005 of which Oswestry Borough Council (now Shropshire Council) contributed £388,000. Again, the building is already showing the signs of poor maintenance.

Other finances were sourced from the Tourism Action Plan, the Rural Regeneration Zone and the Community Tourism Initiative.

Were these grants awarded without the heavy involvement of local councils or council officials’ expertise?

MTRP was awarded on the basis of the outputs of the CHRL proposals compared to those of its competitors for that funding. It was competitive funding and there was no input from SC other than the administration of the funding.

The LSTF is an EU fund accessed by Shropshire Council. CHRL received £20,000 from a total North Shropshire wide bid of £850,000. The greenway cycle-path is also funded from this source.

But the Oswestry Station Building also benefited from MTRP and it has a close association with CHRL.

 

The Local Sustainable Transport Fund was indeed accessed via Shropshire Council. We have included here copy of the completed application form (Document B). Our understanding is that the fund was designed to be used to encourage active forms of transport and to cut pollution. Rather bizarrely, the Applicant was able to extract £20,000 from the fund to apply for a transfer Order.

We would state at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

Would CHRL, CRS and CRT be self-supporting without the help of tax payers?

Much funding is classed as ‘EU’ rather than local. In common with other heritage and community railways, in addition to its own fundraising efforts, CHRL does, and will continue to, seek funding from a variety of grants and other funding sources.

To clarify our point here, the Applicant would not be able operate at its current low level without the support of Shropshire Council. Certainly, the application for a transfer Order is in no way covered by the criteria needed for a grant allocation from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

CHRL has made no comment on the official accreditation and qualifications of the CHRL board as requested in (redacted) objection.

See paragraphs 3.1.2 and 3.2.2 of CHRL’s written representations. CHRL’s document 10 is not intended to be exhaustive but is indicative of the breadth of experience within the CHRL team.

To clarify, we asked for “official accreditation”, in other words some evidence of qualifications that would allow us to make an informed assessment on whether a driver was competent to operate a steam engine (for example), or to allow a member of the public to operate a steam engine.

 

Safety is our primary concern. If the transfer is allowed to proceed, the Applicant will have to take full responsibility not only for the full 8.5 miles of track, but the staff that operate any service, the passengers that use the service and the public where they cross the line (either on foot or by vehicle).

This is not a responsibility that should be taken so lightly.

(Redacted) has requested copies of documents from Shropshire Council without success.

The correspondence between (redacted) and the Council is not a matter on which CHRL can provide any commentary. A copy of the lease of 2014 was appended to CHRL’s written representation at Document 2. The business plan referred to would pre-date the acquisition of the land in 2008 and would therefore be of historical interest only. CHRL notes that this is an application for a transfer Order only and it is already the lessee of the land concerned.

The reasons we insist, and continue to insist on seeing the business plan is Shropshire Council used public money to purchase much of the 8.5 miles of line almost exclusively for the use of the Applicant. The purchase of the line ties the authority to maintaining all road over rail structures and specifically to rail traffic. The authority has committed itself to political and financial support to the restoration project as detailed in Document 11 appended to our written representation of 22 February 2016. It has done all of this without the consent of the rate payers of Shropshire. It does not hold a copy of the business plan, therefore only the Applicant has one.

(Redacted) requests site of any revised business plan that takes account the fractured nature of any new service following the ORR’s recommendation that major road crossings will not be made on the level.

See paragraphs 1.8 and 3.1.3 of CHRL’s written representations.

 

There is no requirement under the Application Rules for submission of a business plan in support of an application for a TWA Order or indeed submission of accounts. Further, this is not a works order where it would be appropriate to demonstrate a funding capacity.

 

CHRL has been in talks with the ORR and Highways England about the works that would be necessary to provide acceptable crossings of the two trunk roads concerned by bridge and underpass respectively. This engagement is proving productive and will continue. CHRL will also continue to review its position and business planning, depending upon the outcome of the current application for the transfer Order. With regard to current profitability, CHRL is obliged to file its accounts in the usual way as a charity and limited company.

CHRL currently offers an enjoyable tourist experience that involves a mixture of heritage train and bus journeys. That will continue, and will be built upon. CHRL still aspires to restore the branch railway as a whole and the proposed Order as an important step towards this.

We have said repeatedly that the Applicant is not open and transparent, even when it benefits from so much financial and political support from local authorities.

 

Although as rate payers we can approach Shropshire Council via Freedom of Information Requests, as a charity the Applicant is under no obligation to make information available (other than by company statute). It can even decide how much or how little to inform its own membership of developments.

 

We would suggest that despite there being no requirement under the Application Rules for the release of a business plan in support of a transfer Order application, it would be prudent for the Applicant to make this material available in the interests of openness and transparency.

 

Further, we note that the Applicant is only now releasing information reluctantly as part of the written representation process of the transfer (see their introduction to the April 2016 representation).

Once this process is complete we fear that the Applicant will fall back on releasing as little information to the general public and its own membership as possible.

CHRL has provided no information or assessments of its current operations regarding their profitability and there has been no independent study done into the cost/benefit/risk of having the whole line operational. We have seen no sign of any business plan.

See above. Further, there is no legal or other requirement for any independent study of CHRL’s proposals to be carried out. However, CHRL notes the support for the restoration of the branch line in Documents 8 and 9 accompanying its written representations.

Again the Applicant refuses to make available crucial information that would help make a proper assessment of whether the project could succeed.

CHRL has made no comment on its reliance on Shropshire Council.

See item 35.

CHRL does not agree that it is “reliant” upon Shropshire Council. The Council is its landlord and therefore has its own obligations in respect of the freehold land and property that it owns. These are spelt out in the usual way in the lease. The Council has also provided financial and practical help to CHRL and the two bodies have worked together, for example, to provide the first section of cycleway which is currently under construction within the railway corridor in Oswestry (the greenway). Such support is indicative of CHRL’s fitness to take forward the restoration of the branch line. It has proven ability to work professionally with key stakeholders in meeting the objectives of the local and county economic and tourism plans.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

We are unclear in what way the Applicant has helped in the creation of the greenway project. Did it do hedge cutting, foliage clearance, land clearance, hardcore laying, fencing?

CHRL has made no comment on the meeting held on 20 October 2003.

See response above.

See our response at item 36, row 9.  

CHRL has made no comment on the report of the Shropshire County Council cabinet meeting dated 18 May 2004 which stated the importance of long term political and financial backing to the project by both Borough and Town Council to minimise the risk of failure of the railway operator.

CHRL was not a party to the production of this report of almost 12 years ago but would not dispute the importance of local authority support to community and heritage railway offerings. From 2009, the two councils referred to in the report have been superseded by Shropshire Council.

We would highlight that the Applicant has and continues to benefit from long term political and financial support from local authorities, but the unanswered question remains, how can such support be justified to rate payers in the current economic climate and without any up to date business plan publically available for scrutiny?

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CHRL has made no comment on the risk to life or damage to the environment which is not mentioned in the 2004 report.

CHRL comments that the fact that the 2004 report made no mention of a risk to life or damage to the environment is unsurprising given the context of the report. CHRL has answered the safety point and dealt with environmental assessments in paragraph 3.3 of written representations.

The trouble with the safety information supplied by the Applicant is that it is solely in respect of the charity with no provision made for the effects on the wider community. To clarify, the Applicant will be taking responsibility for 8.5 miles of line, (some of it passing through a town bordering a number of residential properties), including a number of level crossings. As such they have a duty of safety to the wider community, a duty that, so far they have totally failed to accommodate. 

CHRL has made no comment on its lack of assets and reliance on SC.

See above.

See our response at item 36, row 5.

We understand that representations have been made to the authority regarding a leaking roof and repair work required to Middleton Road Bridge.

Oswestry Station building is not leased by CHRL.

The parapet of Middleton Road bridge was damaged when two cars collided and is subject to the repairing obligations of the lease.

We have already demonstrated the close relationship between the Applicant and the Oswestry Railway Station Trust.

 

Regarding the Middleton Road Bridge, it is our understanding that representations have been made by the Applicant to Shropshire Council regarding repair work to allow for safe passage of under traffic. Work that the authority is obliged to undertake even though no trains (legally) run under the Middleton Road Bridge.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

Legitimacy of executive board of CHRL.

See paragraph 3.2 of CHRL’s written representations.

See paragraph immediately below.

The CHRL board is improperly constituted as a result of improper conduct at the November 2013 AGM when valid nominations were excluded from the vote without explanation.

The suggestion that the CHRL board is not properly constituted is unfounded.

 

Directors are elected annually and are responsible to the membership. An annual report is presented to members at the Annual General Meeting.

 

This is in accordance with the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company (Document 5).

 

The last such AGM and ballot took place in November 2015.

There was no improper conduct at the AGM of November 2013 and no nominations were excluded from the vote. Document 6 is a copy of the minutes of that meeting.

To clarify our position, we are stating that as the result of improper conduct in the election to the board of CHRL during the November AGM that Board, and therefore the decisions it made since then have all been illegitimate.

 

The Applicant in their April 2016 further written representation, and their reference to the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company, refers to the rules regarding the election of members to the Board. It is our contention that this did not happen in 2013.  

We thank the Applicant for providing a copy of the minutes of the meeting (Document 6 in their further written representation of April 2016), but we are afraid (redacted) sees this as further evidence of CHRL keeping their membership in the dark and indeed, the Charity Commission.

The then Chair admitted the misdemeanour but no explanation was given to members.

As set out above, CHRL refutes the allegation that there was any impropriety at the Annual General Meeting of 2013 (albeit that this pre-dates the elections to constitute the board responsible for the submission of the application for the TWAO). The allegation is without foundation. Voting at the AGM was compliant with the company requirements and is recorded in the minutes (Document 6). CHRL in unaware what misdemeanour Romer Hoseason is alleged to have admitted to and notes the lack of any particulars in (redacted) representations. In any event, Romer Hoseason did not stand for re-election in 2015 and is no longer a director or officer of the company.

The Board of CHRL have a duty to inform their membership, and the Charity Commission of bad practice. This was not done, so the membership and the Charity Commission remain unaware of the improperly constituted Board.

 

We would restate that the Board of CHRL was illegitimately constituted as the result of improper conduct at the November 2013 AGM, and all decisions taken by that Board and by subsequent boards since then are illegitimate.

We would point to this state of affairs as a further example of the Applicants unsuitability to benefit from the transfer Order.  

We ask the board of CHRL directly now, were any potential nominees to the executive committee excluded from the ballot by any means prior to the AGM of 2013.

The answer to this question is no.

We would recommend that the Applicant read carefully the attached documents comprised of a series of hardcopies of emails between members of the Board in respect of the said AGM and election (Document C). The highlighted areas and the annotations were done by (Redacted), a member of CHRL at the time.

We invite the Applicant to revise their most recent answer and give a full, frank and truthful explanation of the events referenced.

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The charity remains a closed book.

CHRL refutes the suggestion that it is a closed book. See item 35 above. CHRL makes a number of presentations and press releases every year and regularly publishes information on its website. It is required to submit annual reports to both Companies House and the Charities Commission. It is very far from the organisation that (redacted) seeks to portray which CHRL simply does not recognise and which undoubtedly would not garnered the level of support from its MP and key stakeholders that CHRL enjoys.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

As such it should go well beyond its current minimal obligations of transparency. Currently, the charity is well within in its rights to withhold information despite its reliance on public money and council support.

 

The Applicant is reminded that Owen Paterson MP instigated negotiations for the purchase of the line for the benefit of CRT (and by association CHRL). The Applicant has admitted in its Report on Consultation that he has also chaired a number of CHRL meetings. The Applicant has not “garnered” support from Mr Paterson, nor indeed has it “garnered” it from local authorities. These stakeholders were instrumental in setting up the CHRL in the first place, along with the preceding company The Cross Border of Tourism Group.

To be clear, beyond the individuals and institutions that helped to create the Applicant, it has demonstrated very little support in favour of its application. 

CHRL has made no comment on how many members of the board live in close proximity to the line.

Two members of the board live in close proximity to the line.

Therefore the vast majority of the executive board of CHRL do not live near the line to be restored and therefore will not be materially affected by its operation.

That the restoration of the line puts lives at risk; concern regarding the safety of level crossings, and generally in relation to CHRL’s restoration and other projects.

This is untrue. See paragraph 3.3 of CHRL’s written representations.

The response referenced in paragraph 3.3 of the Applicant’s written representation refers to safety systems in respect of contractors, volunteers and employees of the charity itself.

 

Our concern, as we have repeatedly stated, regard the communities and people around the line to be restored. We have seen no evidence that the Applicant is taking any responsibility for the wider community, such as residents living close to the line, drivers, not least ambulance drivers at crossing access routes and commuters trying to navigate the decaying Coney Green pedestrian level crossing, which must surely be a concern as it openly discriminates against disabled people.

We see this now, with the low level of services being operated by the Applicant. We have no reason to believe that once conferred further powers the Applicant will take their responsibilities to the community any more seriously.

In June 2014 Malcolm Davidson admitted there had been no training prior to that date but said it would commence in the Autumn.

(Redacted) statement is misleading. Mr Davidson was explaining that hitherto there had been no joint CHRL training (as opposed to CRT and CRS members’ training, both of which had well-established and longstanding schemes in place). CHRL training procedures are now identified within the Green Dragon rail safety manual. Document 7 is a copy of the CHRL Members Introduction.

Again, this throws up confusion regarding the relationship between CHRL and CRS and CRT.

 

The latter two are railway operators with some history, but the Applicant gives us no evidence of what individual training was undertaken by these organisations.

We understand that CHRL is a staff and marketing charity that does not operate trains. We ask again, exactly what is CHRL?

Please can CHRL supply copies of training schedules for the period between October 2014 and December 2015?

There is no reason for CHRL to provide (redacted) with such information and they are not required to be submitted as part of the application for the transfer Order.

As much of our concerns regarding the project revolve around health and safety, it would be prudent for the Applicant to release this information, not least to demonstrate openness and transparency.

CHRL intends to undertake a major restoration of the line thus turning it into a major responsibility which we strongly feel the charity is unable to maintain.

(Redacted) presents no evidence in support of its contention that the charity is not capable of taking on the responsibility of the branch railway. This is clearly not the view of Shropshire or Oswestry Town Councils (see for example Document 3), or indeed the ORR with whom CHRL has been working since its inception and as CRS and CRT before then.

With respect, it is very important that the Applicant can demonstrate it is capable of taking on the responsibility for the whole line, not only to operate a railway service, but to accommodate the wider community that live and travel around the line.

CHRL makes no comment on its large damaged excavator being used to lay hardcore.

The excavator is stored in a secure and fenced compound. It has some damage to the laminated window that does not affect visibility or its safe use generally.

The excavator is and has for some time been stored in an area accessible by children and close to an access to a large children’s play area (Wilfred Owen Green) near the centre of Oswestry town.

CHRL makes no comment on the size of its active workforce.

See item 14 above.

See our response at item 14 above.

There has not been an environmental assessment.

See item 33 above. No environmental assessment is required.

We would state at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

We would say that the border along the railway corridor has changed substantially since it was last used and that much of the line itself became a wildlife heaven before the Applicant was allowed to enter the site prior to the signing of the lease to do foliage removal and land clearance.

(Redacted) has observed existing services that produce high emissions. Surely this will have a high impact on the environment and especially on newer build properties located close to the line. CHRL has made no comment on the fuel it will use.

See paragraph 3.34 of the written representations. CHRL does not agree that its existing or prospective operations would have a high impact on the environment and it notes the lack of any evidence in support of this comment.

We note that the Applicant makes no comment on the grade of fuel they have been using to operate the steam locomotive running up and down the line close to a large children’s play area (Wilfred Owen Green) and a number of residential properties in close proximity to the line.

 

We are also aware that the Applicant has been relaying recycled wooden sleepers (rather than new concrete or reconstituted plastic/rubber composites) on sections of track. We don’t have information on from where these sleepers are sourced, but we would point out that wooden sleepers can contain a number of harmful contaminants.

Has the Applicant taken measures to minimise handling risk to the unemployed workforce they currently use? Does the use of potentially contaminated material sit easily with the close proximity of the large children’s play area (Wilfred Owen Green) or the soon to be opened greenway footpath running alongside a length of track in Oswestry?

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CHRL has admitted that it does not have the necessary permission to operate a passenger service over the Coney Green pedestrian crossing in Oswestry.

See item 6, paragraph 3.6 of CHRL’s written representations and (Redacted’s) Document 31.

In fact the Applicant did admit to not having the written permission of the Secretary of State to operate a passenger service in Oswestry in their previous written representation.

See response at item 1 for our opinions of the reference here to Document 31.

CHRL states that it has retained the services of Green Dragon but does not say for how long it has done so and whether it retained a firm of safety consultants before then.

Green Dragon has been retained since 2014, in anticipation of an application being made for the transfer Order and CHRL assuming the responsibilities of the branch line. CHRL did not retain a firm of specialist safety consultants before this but both CRS and CRT have established approved Safety management Systems in place that are overseen by the ORR (formerly HMRI).

Did the Applicant in the form of CRT seek safety management advice from its previous consultants in respect of its use of the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing considering its illegitimate use operating a passenger service at that point, or has only CHRL operated such a service at that point (considering that CHRL is a staff and marketing organisation)?

What evidence is there that Shropshire Council sought permission on priorities regarding rights of way prior to the construction of the level crossing near the Medical Centre?

The relevant authority at the time was Shropshire County Council and the developer was AWM, which is no longer trading. CHRL does not know what consideration was give to priorities but clearly the railway was already in situ when the road was constructed and the relevant section of the road is not a public highway.

It has been noted that same argument regarding the line being in situ prior to the construction of the road/access route was used publically by Roger Date in 2013 in respect of the Pentre Clawdd level crossing over the A5 and is the most up to date display of an ongoing bullish behaviour by the Applicant.

 

The Applicant forgets that one of the reasons for purchasing the line in the first place was to create an access route into a 5 acre site near the centre of Oswestry owned by Advantage West Midlands. Part of this site was to be developed as a Medical Centre (Document D), so Shropshire County Council must have known that emergency vehicles would be accessing the site in whatever form it was constructed.

Obviously, health and safety comes first. To suggest that an ambulance would have to wait for a heritage train to pass over a level crossing at a maximum of 25 miles per hour is obscene.

Does CHRL intend to renovate and operate the crossing to the Antiques Emporium/Children’s Funhouse as this access seems to have been totally overlooked by the ORR.

The ORR has visited the railway at Oswestry on a number of occasions and is cognisant of all the crossings, including this one, which is not a crossing of the public highway. CHRL will continue its existing engagement with the ORR to ensure that appropriate, safe arrangements are put in place for all crossings along the route.

We have noted the ORR’s long relationship with the Applicant, but still find it curious that the department didn’t feel as if it had sufficient time to make a judgement on the legality of the access route to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre. However, we do recognise that the access route is a relatively new build, has a traffic light controlled entrance off a major artery into town, and leads directly onto a undersubscribed parking area that regularly overflows onto the crossing itself.

The access road to Children’s Funhouse/Antiques Emporium is a much less complex and older crossing that used to enter the Richard Burbridge factory site with further access to the back of Shelf Bank and onto Monkmoor. It is not clear if it is an access or a right of way. What is certain is that despite it being partly an entrance to a children’s indoor play facility, both the Applicant and the ORR have conspicuously not made any mention of it.    

The crossings over the A495 and School Lane were not even mentioned in the originally proposed transfer order. CHRL gives the impression that these level crossings may be used at some point which is at odds with the ORR’s stated position of no new, or re-instated level crossings

There was no need for these two crossings to be referred to in the Order. They have been included to allay any concerns that they might be operated without consent first having been obtained from the ORR. The proposed form of words is appropriate for a case where a railway has not been abandoned and no fresh powers are required to authorise it.

The official position of the ORR – the national rail regulator in this country -  is of “no new or re-instated level crossings, unless there are exceptional circumstances – and this is not one”.

 

All across the country Network Rail are closing level crossings or finding new methodologies to render there operation more safely. These facts are undisputable.

 

In their original objection Highways England raised concerns about level crossings they were aware of that were not mentioned in the original draft transfer Order.

The truth is the Applicant cannot get consent to operate any level crossing. Even at the A495 the crossing is located on a blind corner, the road is very heavily used, and not least by heavy freight lorries.

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CHRL has made no comment on why the level crossings on the A495, the access route to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre, the Antiques Emporium/Children’s Funhouse, and the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing were left out of the original draft Order.

There is no legal requirement to include reference to any level crossings in the transfer Order. Mention was made of key level crossings to provide the certainty that the Order would provide to the basis upon which the transferred railway may be operated. CHR’s covenants under the lease are consistent with the Order as originally applied for and as currently proposed.

A key requirement of any large undertaking such is this is safety. If the legal advice to the Applicant was not to mention the level crossings then the original submission from the statutory objectors would suggest otherwise.

CHRL has made no comment on any other rights of way pedestrian crossings such as the one at Travis Perkins Drive.

It is not clear what comment (redacted) is expecting CHRL to make. The ORR is content with CHRL’s proposed approach to the level crossings.

To clarify, we have highlighted grey areas concerning who has priority at the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre, the lack of inclusion of said access route in the original draft transfer Order, along with the access route to the Children’s Funhouse/Antiques Emporium. Mention of the level crossings at School Lane and over the A495 are made in the redrafted Order with the suggestion that these could be operated at some future point, despite the publically stated official national contrary policy of the ORR. The Coney Green pedestrian level crossing remains a mystery despite its regular use by the Applicant, not least in its conveyance of passengers.

Our point is that the Travis Perkins drive is a public right of way that leads, via a kissing gate into the fields beyond. There are other similar paths that cross the line. No mention is made of any of them – anywhere.

What experience has CHRL of operating vehicular level crossings?

See paragraphs 3.3.1 and 3.3.5 to 3.3.7 of CHRL’s written representations.

To clarify here, the Applicant has NO experience of operating vehicular level crossings.

There has been no erection of permanent signs by Shropshire Council or CHRL along the route used by walkers, although attempts have been made to fence off sections from regular walking routes, these fences are of poor and ineffective quality and have been seen lying on the ground.

Vandalism of signage and fencing has been a problem although, with the opening of the new “greenway” in Oswestry in 2016, a project with which CHRL has been collaborating with Shropshire Council, it is anticipated that the situation will improve significantly. The greenway makes specific provision for walkers on land within the railway corridor. The fencing used by CHRL is of a standard concrete post and wire variety, commonly used for security fencing. Both signage and fencing are re-instated as and when removed or spoiled.

We ask the Applicant here has the opening of the Wilfred Owen Green opposite the Oswestry Railway Station reduced vandalism in the area?

 

We also ask again in what way has the Applicant been “collaborating with Shropshire Council in respect of the constructing of the greenway?

 

Please could the Applicant confirm that the greenway has been constructed alongside the line that had always been used unofficially by walkers?

Our understanding is that the Shropshire Council erected fencing that separates the greenway from the railway is a simple wire fence threaded through concrete posts. Is it the Applicant’s contention that this will be enough to stop people walking along the rest of the track, when much more robust and higher fences did not?   

CHRL has made no comment on its ability to make 8.5 miles of land secure for the purposes of its operations, including maintenance, cleaning and repair.

See item 11 above.

See our response at item 11 above.

CHRL has a history of poor security as evidenced by the arson attack on the shed at Old Oswestry Station.

CHRL disputes that it has a history of poor security. See item 35 above.

(Redacted) contends that the Applicant, whether in the form of CHRL, CRT and CRS does have a poor history of security. See our response above at item 35 row 6.

CHRL has made no comment on how it intends to operate a service from Gobowen. The station car park is operating at capacity and there is little scope for alternatives.

CHRL has been discussing with key stakeholders, including Shropshire Council, the introduction of a community railway over the track from Gobowen to Oswestry, serving in particular the orthopaedic hospital, with the heritage railway offering running south from Oswestry.

CHRL has purchased the freehold of sufficient land at Gobowen to provide adequate parking provision.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

As the Gobowen to Oswestry section includes the construction of an underpass at the A5 in Pentre Clawdd this has substantially skewed any cost/risk/benefit analysis undertaken by the Applicant so far.

 

Given that the only reference to a business plan submitted to the local authority was from CRT (prior to the merger in 2009), it is highly unlikely that any business model for this section of the line to be restored exists that includes reference to such a major structural undertaking.

 

We note the Applicant references a freehold of land in Gobowen. Is this a reference to a “parcel” of land mentioned earlier in this document and relates to the Wrekin Housing development?

We also note that the Applicant describes the proposed provision for parking as being “adequate” without giving any indication of how it has managed to make that assessment given the fact that the car park for the main line is already at capacity. 

CHRL has made no comment on the worsening state of the Coney Green level crossing for mobility scooter and buggy users. With increased rail use the quality of this much used crossing will only worsen. CHRL and the ORR are not taking their responsibilities seriously in its maintenance.

As Document 31 appended to (redacted) written representations demonstrates, the ORR has visited this crossing recently and is satisfied as to its safety. The incident that appeared in the press was not reported to CHRL. Upon hearing of it, CHRL carried out a further safety inspection of the footway (Document 8) and determined that no further steps were necessary.

We would highlight this as another example of the Applicant taking the very narrow view of safety in respect of the railway service rather than the wider community. It is undeniable that the state of the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing has been growing progressively worse for people with mobility challenges since the trains started running over it.

 

This issue has been bought before the Health and Safety Executive who referred us to the ORR. Ian Prosser, John Gillespie and David Keay of the ORR were all informed in February with a reminder in March. They all failed to even acknowledge the correspondence.

Only last week did we receive an acknowledgement from John Gillespie via the intervention of a third party that the issue would finally be looked into. Although we acknowledge that the Applicant has no influence over the actions (or otherwise) of the rail regulator, we do feel their lack of apparent responsibility to the wider community, particularly the less able bodied, is a disgrace.

Restoration works were carried out by CHRL before lease was signed.

See paragraph 3.4 of CHRL’s written representations and item 20 above.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

See also our responses at item 20 above.

CHRL has provided no official documentation that its staff, volunteers or contractors have received adequate training.

See paragraph 3.5 of CHRL’s written representations.

There is no requirement under the TWA Applications Rules for such documents to be provided to the Department for Transport or to an objector to a TWA Order.

One of our primary concerns regarding the restoration project is that of safety, health and risk management, not only to railway staff but more importantly to the wider community. We are not seeing any evidence that the Applicant has an appreciation or awareness of their responsibilities.

By simply falling back on what is and isn’t required in the TWA Application Rules undermines the Applicant’s contention that they are making adequate safety checks of all people involved in the project.

CHRL has made no comment on its low active membership and inability to attract a voluntary workforce (relying on unemployed).

See items 14 and 31 above.

See our response at items 14 and 31 above.

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CHRL has made no comment on how it has used low pay/no pay contractors to do work that has caused damage.

See items 14 and 31 above. CHRL refutes the unsubstantiated allegation that works carried out by or on behalf of CHRL have caused damage.

To clarify, have any works carried out by any contractor or sub contractor on or close to the line, whether commissioned by the Applicant or a key stakeholder closely connected to the Applicant, caused any damage?

CHRL does not have the requisite consent to cross the Coney Green Level Crossing.

See (redacted) Document 31 and paragraph 3.6 of CHRL’s written representations. In particular, CHRL does not accept that Document 13 indicates a lack of good faith on the part of CHRL. There was never any requirement for CHRL to refer to all the level crossings in the transfer Order.

Document 31 is a printout of a private email to us from the Customer Correspondence Team of the ORR. It simply acknowledges that the department is aware that CHRL are running a passenger service over 300 metres of track in Oswestry, including over the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing.

 

We are aware that the only official document that can account for such a service is the Oswestry Light Railway Order of 1995 which explicitly states that the line will not be used to convey passengers without the prior written consent of the Secretary of State.

 

The Applicant has admitted they don’t have the document, the ORR have admitted that they don’t have the original consent and the Department for Transport have said they don’t have a copy of the official consent.

 

So, to clarify, no party has been able to locate the required original official consent from the Secretary of State allowing permission for the Applicant to run a passenger service in Oswestry.

 

Document 31 from the ORR dated 12October 2015 does state a member with delegated powers had recently visited the Applicant and was “content with the safety of the operations”, but this by no means explains away the operation of the service.

 

We sent a Freedom of Information Request to the ORR some months ago to ask when they first became aware that a passenger service was operating in Oswestry and who (with delegated powers from the Secretary of State) allowed them the powers to operate the service? 

We have not received an answer.  

CHRL’s current service is unlikely to be covered by its insurer.

CHRL does not agree. See paragraph 3.6.3 of CHRL’s written representations. CHRL’s insurers visit the railway annually and are aware of the operations at Oswestry and Llynclys.

Have the Applicant’s insurers asked to see a copy of the requisite document from the Secretary of State allowing CHRL to operate a paying passenger service in Oswestry and also to allow passengers to operate their engines bearing in mind that the Applicant doesn’t hold the document as they admitted in their previous written representation?

Access routes.

See paragraph 3.7 of CHRL’s written representations. There is no legal or other requirement for these crossings to be mentioned in the transfer order.

Considering that one of our primary concerns is safety and risk to the wider community, especially on a line that crosses three A roads, an unspecified number of Rights of Way and access routes, we think it would have been a top priority to ensure that these particular aspects were given priority.

Even at the time of writing this representation a national news item has given details of a crash on the main network between a commuter service and a tractor. These incidents are becoming ever more prevalent.

Construction works – the Orchard Project is nothing to do with transport and was developed before the lease was signed in 2014.

See paragraph 3.8 of CHRL’s written representations.

CHRL is unclear what point is being made, save that SC authorised CHRL to carry out land management activities of which the Orchard Project is one example, and demonstrates CHRL’s commitment to work for the benefit of its local community.

To clarify, the land was purchased for the purposes of transport and access. There is no mention in official documents regarding the development of the land for an orchard.

 

This is an example of the Applicant using the land prior to the signing of the lease to develop a project other than for what it was intended for and demonstrates again the cosy relationship between the authority the Applicant.

Please explain how a staff and marketing charity (CHRL) associated with two heritage railway operators can be involved with the development of a new orchard and further, how such a project is benefitting the local community?

The poor state of the excavator used to lay hardcore.

See item 38 above.

This privately owned, poorly maintained, rusting large excavator is being kept on land owned by Shropshire Council and not stored away properly. We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

See our response at item 38 above.

No official documentation has been submitted regarding CHRL’s compliance with Health and Safety legislation.

The Application Rules do not require the submission of such documentation. See paragraph 3.8.2 of the written representations.

Considering that one of our primary concerns is safety and risk to the wider community, especially on a line that crosses three A roads, an unspecified number of Rights of Way and access routes, we think it would have been a top priority to ensure that these particular aspects were given more importance.

Consultation – CHRL has made no comment on the DfT’s position that all information will be considered during the application process.

See paragraph 3.9 of CHRL’s written representations and items 12 and 35 above.

 

CHRL has endeavoured to meet all the requirements of the DfT and the Application Rules in a professional manner.

CHRL has attempted to respond to each and every point made by (redacted) in order to assist the Secretary of State in reaching his determination. This is especially important given that serious allegations have been made against the local authority and Office of Rail and Road (and others) to which they have no opportunity of defending themselves.

The Applicant has repeatedly stated, even in the responses given here, that certain requested information is not a requirement under the DfT Application Rules for a transfer Order, but we received a correspondence from the department last year that all information is considered and we have repeatedly quoted it to the Applicant. We have informed the Applicant of this fact but they continue to ignore us.

 

There is no denying the fact that the ORR has been unhelpful. We have requested information that they are slow at responding, evasive and inconsistent – particularly in respect of a requested review. It has been necessary to involve the Information Commissioner’s Office, Individual officers have ignored repeated requests for a review of the safety of the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing and they have refused to meet objectors regarding the level crossing in Oswestry and thereby denying them the same rights as the Applicant.

 

The local authority has remained silent on the subject of the transfer Order itself, but there remains serious questions to be answered in respect of its political and financial commitment to a project with no current business plan at a time when it is seeking to make a further £74 million of essential service efficiencies.

Yes, we do indeed question the competence of both organisations.

CHRL made claims that the ORR (and Highways England) had not formally objected to the Order.

This is not true. The Consultation Report stated that, as a result of consultation with the ORR, CHRL believed that the ORR had no objection to the proposed Order. The Consultation Report (dated March 2015) was submitted as part of the application for the Transfer Order and, at that time, CHRL believed that the ORR would not object. CHRL had been in regular contact with the ORR and had received no response to the draft Order sent to the ORR ahead of submission of the application.

 

Further, as the ORR’s objection made clear, it has no in-principle objection to the transfer to CHRL.

The same point applies to Highways England.

The Applicant is unable to accept that the initial response from the ORR and Highways England was classified by the DfT as objections, as the annotations OBJ/4 and OBJ/5 on both documents by the department indicate.

 

The fact is that CHRL did not wait for formal notification from the respective departments before proceeding with the application to the DfT thereby leading to an extended consultation process with the statutory objectors that wasn’t resolved until December 2015, some eight months after the original application was applied for.

This is yet a further demonstration of the unprofessionalism of the Applicant in that it can have an extended consultation with both departments, not least in respect of the devising of the application to make it acceptable to all at least one year before submission, and yet they still got it wrong.

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(Redacted) has seen no official documentation from CHRL or the Department for Transport to confirm that the ORR and Highways England have withdrawn their objections to the Order.

It is for the DfT to decide what information to provide (redacted).

It is here that we must turn to the Department for Transport to highlight faults in its own procedures; we understand that we were not the only objectors to say in our submissions to the DfT that we requested to be kept up to date with all future developments. This did not happen.

 

We understand that Highways England withdrew their objection following negotiations with the Applicant in August 2015. Following a change in the wording of the draft Order the ORR withdrew their objection in December 2015. The DfT failed to send these documents despite our earlier request.

 

We were only informed of these changes by the Applicant to whom, naturally enough, we have a deep scepticism. We were only sent copies of the official documents when we contacted Robert Fox of the department in 2016.

As individual objectors we have made our views regarding the unfairness of the transfer Order process known to the department who have admitted they have very little experience of challenges to their long established but flawed processes. We have suggested improvements that can be made, but as there are so few transfer Order applications now we think it is unlikely that improvements will be made.

CHRL has made no comment on the possible effects of an operational railway service on existing public transport systems.

See paragraph 1.18 of the written representations. (Redacted) puts forward no reason why there should be any detrimental effect on existing public transport in the area and CHRL would expect to work with local bus operators with a view to ensuring complimentary services for local people and tourists, providing better connectivity.

The Applicant presents no evidence that it will work with existing local public transport networks.

 

Such networks offer no cost travel to the elderly from a variety of convenient pick up points in the villages surrounding Oswestry subsidised by the local authority.

Would the Applicant be capable of offering a similarly regular and convenient service? If they did it would be classified as a “commuter service” and as such would be subject to the same, more stringent health and safety regulations as services operated on the main line.

Short notice of drop in session.

CHRL does not agree that there was “short notice” – see Consultation Report for details of advance advertising and leafleting. The attendance at the drop in was very pleasing. Over 80 people attended the drop-in, many from properties adjoining the railway corridor. There was also a telephone line for enquires from people unable to attend the drop in with 12 calls being received.

This restoration project will affect far more than 92 people. Of the total responses we note that the Applicant fails to indicate how many of them actually supported the project.

 

The fact is, the run up time to the drop in session was only days and we are given no information on if the leaflets advertising the event were distributed to properties and businesses close to the entire 8.5 miles of line to be restored.

Similarly, we have not been given any indication of feedback from people and businesses close to areas where major structural changes will be made to accommodate the railway, namely the new bridge and underpass.

Letters of support pre-date the knowledge that the A5 and A483 would not be crossed on the level.

CHRL has no reason to suppose that this makes any difference to the degree of local support for the project which was based upon principles of connectivity and economic regeneration to which methodology of crossing the trunk roads is irrelevant.

As any businessman will know, if the capital cost escalates, quite substantially such as in this case, there will be a fundamental effect on the profitability of the project.

 

To clarify further, with the introduction of a bridge and underpass into the restoration project it increases the cost by multi-millions. We would ask for an urgent review of the total cost of the project to be weighed with its perceived economic regeneration.

To clarify further, the costs have rocketed already. Does the Applicant’s business model account for these extra costs?

 

Have utility companies been consulted on the matter of rail traffic passage under the Gasworks Bridge?

Yes, particularly as the greenway is currently being constructed beneath that bridge.

The greenway path does not go underneath the Gasworks Bridge. It goes upwards and joins with Sycamore Drive in Oswestry.

Further, we did consult with the utility companies at the time of the submission of the original transfer Order and found none aware that the railway would be restored, but some did say that should a project proceed they would expect to be consulted by Shropshire Council.

Is there any professional study regarding the possibility of trains negotiating passage under Gasworks Bridge in its present dilapidated state?

The bridge is not in a dilapidated state. However, it will not be used until the ORR has seen and approved details of the proposed works that would then be overseen by local authority engineers.

The Gasworks Bridge was propped by the Highways Agency over a decade ago to maintain it as suitable for over traffic as it is a main artery into Oswestry.

 

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

Here the authority will be spending public money exclusively on the Applicant for under traffic whereas at the Middleton Road Bridge its responsibility is to anyone who uses the greenway as the path also goes under that structure.

CHRL has made no comment on who will take responsibility for new bridges and underpass.

This is a matter to be determined at a later stage following further consultation with key stakeholders.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

Why hasn’t Shropshire Council been heavily involved in talks regarding the neutralisation of danger from the potential and expected operation of all level crossings?

CHRL notes that the use of loaded terms such as “neutralisation of danger” is unhelpful. All local stakeholders, including the Council are, and will continue to be, involved in relevant discussions regarding level crossings along the route of the branch railway.

We have seen no indication at all that Shropshire Council has engaged in discussions regarding safety at level crossings (that the authority owns) in respect of the transfer Order. We do note that in the Accident Report regarding the elderly lady who fell on the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing that a representative from the authority did check the line. We also note that despite increasing incidents of the elderly and people with mobility challenges having problems using the crossing, we note the council didn’t feel that there were any problems for the passage of train and no action was recommended.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

Timeline

CHRL has the following points on the timeline:

 

15 – the Cambrian Visitor Centre did not close. It is still in use to this day.

 

16 – a business plan was provided by CRT, but it pre-dates the formation of CHRL.

 

18 – The Council did not lease the Old Railway Station to CHRL in 2009. It was leased to the Oswestry Station Building Trust in 2006.

 

21 – the relevant land was let to CRT (Gobowen to Llynclys and CRS (Llynclys Junction to Blodwel) by Shropshire Council in 2009 to enable access and repair.

 

23 – CHRL secured funding of £20,000 to bring forward its TWA Order. The applications were made and approved in 2011/12 and the funding stream ended in 2015.

 

25 – CHRL’s Roger Date outlined the solution that was current at that time.

 

27 – Document 16 does not do what (redacted) asserts. See item 25 above.

 

28 – This is untrue. See item 37.

 

29 – See the Statement of Aims in support of the Transfer Order.

30 – The answer given by the Council was that a business plan was “not held”.

This timeline was an attempt to place events into a coherent context so that a judgement can be made on how the whole project has been mismanaged.

 

15- The Cambrian Visitor Centre is only a very small part of the operating building and is closed for most of the time. The definition of “Visitor Centre” also needs some clarification. It is basically a cafe area used infrequently by the Applicant.

 

16 - The business plan has still not been seen. Shropshire Council does not hold one, but the Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line report of 18 May 2004 (Document 11 included in our written representation of 22February 2016) talked of seeking a robust business plan from an organisation capable of running a heritage service along the entire line. CRT was not seen as a capable organisation at the time the report was written. We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

18 - We have seen that CHRL and the Oswestry Station Building Trust share directors. We have stated in our previous representation that an approach has been made to Shropshire Council for some repair work to a leaking roof. This could have been made by the Applicant or the Building Trust, but to all intents and purposes it amounts to the same organisation. We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

23 – It seems that the Applicant did indeed secure £20,000 of match funding via Shropshire Council’s allocation of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

 

25 – The Executive Board member of CHRL was obviously talking publically without being sufficiently aware of the reality of the situation.

 

27 – See our response at item 25.

 

29 – See our responses at item 37 and attached documentation.

30 -  We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016. We suspect that the Applicant is just playing with words at this point. The Council do not hold a business plan in respect of this project that they have committed to.

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This whole restoration project seems to hang on the thin and unsupported premise that a heritage railway running from the mainline at Gobowen to Oswestry would be a massive wealth generator for the whole area.

See paragraph 1.17 to 1.19 of the written representations and Document 1.

We would point out again that the capital required for such a restoration has substantially increased in the past few years alone by the need to build a bridge and an underpass to carry the railway.

The project is driven by a small number of enthusiasts and naive councillors, clinging to the dream that the A5 would be halted for the passage of a train service.

The communities of Oswestry and Gobowen support the project which sits well with other initiatives to bring forward heritage and community railways, the benefits of which are well-evidenced. There is no evidence to support (redacted) contention that local councillors are naive and CHRL considers that accusation to be unfounded.

The biggest parish through which the line to be restored between Gobowen and Oswestry is Whittington. The Applicant has provided no evidence that the people of Whittington are happy to have public money spent on an underpass built exclusively for the use of the Applicant.

 

The minutes of the meeting of 13th December 2005 (Document D) in which councillors approved the purchase of the line (without the requested robust business plan) indicate no examination was made of the points of concern raised or recommendations in the Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016. The document does make reference to “...access to the proposed new health care facilities...” This refers to the construction of entrance to the site for development over the disused railway line in Oswestry.  

 

We asked the attendees of that meeting that took the decision to purchase the line, namely Councillors Daken, Everall, Hartley, Hurst-Knight, Craig, Nutting, Owen, Benyon, Box and Pate, if they had seen a robust business plan from an organisation capable of running a heritage service along the line. The councillors that did respond were unable to remember.

 

Malcolm Pate was Leader of Shropshire County Council, and has recently become the Leader of Shropshire Council.

We would state again at this point that Shropshire Council (formerly Shropshire County Council along with Oswestry Borough Council) and Oswestry Town Council have committed themselves long term both politically and financially to the railway restoration project as stated in Document 11, Shropshire County Council Cambrian Railway Branch Line Oswestry 18th May 2004, included in our written representation of 22February 2016.

CHRL desperately hopes that within the next 49 years someone else will pay for a bridge over the A5.

CHRL is both pragmatic and professional. It has been discussing bridge designs with the ORR and has provided a design that meets its criteria (Document 2). However, final details will not be worked up until details are known regarding the proposed upgrading of the A5. CHRL will seek funding from appropriate sources in due course.

We have seen no evidence that the Applicant is either pragmatic or professional. Indeed, even the largely favourable press reports of the restoration project do not describe the Applicant in such terms.

It is highly unlikely that any railway bridge and underpass designs presented by the Applicant to the ORR will be constructed. They are merely construction designs that would meet the ORR’s minimal requirements. Whether at Pentre Clawdd or Weston such major structural undertakings would be extremely complex and time consuming to realise. We suspect that the ORR is unaware of the land at these locations. For example, there is a sewage treatment works close to the level crossing at Weston just off the A483.

This written representation has highlighted contradictions in the shifting position of the ORR and found them to be bizarrely unaware of the number of level crossings.

CHRL abhors the use of such pejorative language by (redacted). It cannot speak for the ORR but does not agree that (redacted) representations demonstrate what it says they do. CHRL, CRT and CRS have been in regular contact with the ORR for many years, with regular visits from its officers. CHRL is aware that officers of the ORR are well-acquainted with all level crossings.

The fact is the ORR have said that they have not had enough time to do a proper assessment of the level crossing access to the Emergency Ambulance Bay/Minor Injuries Unit/Cambrian Medical Centre so are content to have it left off the draft transfer Order.

 

They are also content to have the level crossings at School Lane and the A495 can be referenced as needing ORR consent before operation in the transfer Order.

 

There remains confusion over the passenger service currently operating on the Coney Green pedestrian level crossing with the department admitting they had lost the original consent document.

 

And yet, their publically stated position is no new or reinstated level crossings.

We are left wondering what their true position is.

Wording of the new proposed Transfer order deliberately ambiguous.

This comment is misconceived. See item 38 above. The ORR is content with the proposed wording of the Order and accepts the efficacy of the existing controls and safeguards along the branch line, as that line is restored.

We refer you to our response at item 50.

We would add that we are extremely angry with the performance of this department. As   a regulator we would expect them to be more active in enforcing safety on railway operators rather than ignoring legitimate safety concerns at railway crossings.

Maintenance of the Coney Green level crossing.

See item 38.

See our response at item 38.

CHRL’s unsuitability as demonstrated by poor performance etc.

See item 11 and 35.

See our responses at item 11 and 35.

Areas of confusion within the lease.

See item 4.

See our response at item 4.

Questionable passenger service in Oswestry.

See items 1, 35 and 38.

See our responses at item 1, 35 and 38.

Conclusion

We submitted an Objection on 16 April 2015, an Addendum on 20 August 2015, a further Addendum on 15 October 2015, a written representation on 22 February 2016 and this latest submission. In addition we have been in communication with the Roger Date of Cambrian Heritage Railways Limited via a series of emails and written replies. This commitment alone displays our deep misgivings about the inception, development and direction of the whole restoration project.

 

We have repeatedly drawn attention to what we feel are very strong reasons why the Applicant is totally unsuited to receive the powers conferred by the transfer of responsibilities from Network Rail by the proposed Order. We feel we have backed up our allegations with irrefutable evidence that the Applicant is totally unfit to hold such responsibilities.

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...and that's it.

The entries above comprise of arguments for and against the transfer of powers from Network Rail to Cambrian Heritage Railways Limited to operate a railway service along 8.5 miles of lime between Gobowen, through Oswestry and to Blodwel.

My understanding is that the Secretary of State (or an Inspector acting on behalf) will make a decision this month (August 2016).

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4 hours ago, Simple Simon said:

...and that's it.

The entries above comprise of arguments for and against the transfer of powers from Network Rail to Cambrian Heritage Railways Limited to operate a railway service along 8.5 miles of lime between Gobowen, through Oswestry and to Blodwel.

My understanding is that the Secretary of State (or an Inspector acting on behalf) will make a decision this month (August 2016).

Thank You Simple Simon - I can't begin to imagine the sheer effort required to analyse and respond to the CHR application!

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It has come to our attention that even now CHRL are seeking messages of support from local authorities regarding their plans to restore an operational line, including the use of level crossings (a direct and known contradiction to the position of the Office of Rail and Road).

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It is now 6th September 2016. Objections to the transfer of powers from Network Rail to Cambrian Heritage Railways Limited were submitted to the Department for Transport toward the end of April 2016 for the attention of the Secretary of State. A decision was expected in August.

No word has yet been received regarding the outcome.

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I note a letter has appeared in the latest issue of the Tizer regarding funds awarded to Cambrian Heritage Railways Limited allegedly not being used for the purpose intended. A sum of £30,440 was awarded to the charity by Shropshire Council in 2011 for the restoration of a steam engine. A photograph accompanying the piece taken last month appears to indicate a good deal less than £30k of restoration work was has been undertaken in the 5 years since the grant was awarded.

 

Question is, what was our money used for?

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