Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Weekend Read: How do you recreate a "new" - old - station like Gilsland?

Dr. Beeching did for Gilsland Station 50 years ago, but the infrastructure remains and the Gilsland Railway Station Campaign was front page of the Hexham Courant last week, and rightly so. The full story is below but I am acutely aware that the local campaigners have gone to huge lengths to ensure the campaign has full support from both Rory Stewart MP and myself, the local councillors, Network Rail, The Tyne Valley Rail Users Group, the local community and businesses, and most importantly, the 2 County Councils. The strength of the case made is without question:
- it would revitalise a local community on a multitude of levels
- it would help Hadrians Wall and Pennine Way Tourism
- it would aid business investment in the cross border area
- and promote greater use of the trains, which is something we all want

The Campaign to Open Gilsland Station (COGS) was set up last year; I have held a series of meetings with many of the people involved not least Northern Rail, Rory Stewart MP and Network Rail; the COGS study, as helped by Councillor Alan Sharp, has revealed that the project could take five years, and cost up to £2.5million. This is no small sum, but it is genuinely doable. This is not a pipe dream project. It does tick the boxes, albeit we still have plenty to prove. If Gilsland station re-opens, it will be a remarkable victory for a community which lost the facility almost half a century ago.

But then we come to an understanding of what is called the GRIP Process. This may sound like some medieval judo hold and, to a degree, it is ... but I will try and explain it and outline the plan of action:
GRIP stands for the Governance for Railway Investment Projects: this is how such projects have been approached for a long time by Network Rail; it has 8 specific stages. Some might see these as bureacratic, but there is a degree of logic to the process, and as public money is going to be used in the process - then, in particular, in these tricky times- a need to ensure the money is well spent is required.

This from the Network Rail site:
"Governance for Railway Investment Projects (GRIP) describes how we manage and control projects that enhance or renew the national rail network.

GRIP divides a project into eight distinct stages.

1.Output definition
3.Option selection
4.Single option development
5.Detailed design
6.Construction test and commission
7.Scheme hand back
8.Project close out"

The Gilsland project is already well through the early stages, with the feasibility study yielding positive results, and the 2 Councils are looking at ways to take the project forward. The 5 year estimate is realistic - this is not going to happen overnight. But the planets are aligned and we have a formidable team of supporters. Money will always be the problem, but if we take this GRIP process stage by stage I genuinely believe this will happen.

Fuller details on the story here: