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Rugby Relief Road: Back To The Drawing Board

A new route will have to be picked for the Rugby Western Relief Road, now that the former railway track is likely to reopen to freight trains.

Uncertainly has surrounded the route for a new road around the town, which was set to have used part of the former Rugby to Leamington rail line.

But Rugby Cement (now RMC) now says it wants to reopen the line. It provides a link between its plants at Lawford Road in Rugby and the Southam works at Long Itchington.

The county council had been expecting to make use of some of the old line for a bypass running from the A4071 at Cawston, crossing the A428 by the cement works carrying on to the A426-B4112 Avon Mill roundabout at Newbold.

But the rail link and relief road cannot both use the same stretch - only one can succeed and the balance has tipped in favour of the rail line again. That leaves the county council with no route for its road, sending engineers back to the drawing board.

John Deegan, Warwickshire’s director of planning, transport and economic strategy, said:

“Rugby Cement has now decided that they will promote reopening of the railway through the necessary statutory procedures and through a grant application to the DETR.

“This will take some time, probably more than a year and until these processes are complete Rugby Cement will not be able to begin implementation of their proposal to reopen the railway. They have, however, demonstrated a strong commitment to the project.

“In order to remove the uncertainty that has affected the relief road and to facilitate reopening of the railway, it is now recommended that a new alignment be adopted for the relief road that does not prejudice the reopening of the railway.”

The northern section of the road from the cement works to the Avon Mill roundabout was set to have been built first, as it had little impact on the rail line.

And the southern section from the cement works to Cawston had been planned to follow on later, as there were complications caused by the on-off plans for the reopening of the rail line.

It is likely that the new road will now run alongside the rail corridor, although this will be in Green Belt land.

This option has long been heralded by Andy King MP. He wants both the road and rail link to go ahead.

This further complication means a further delay to the road scheme that has been floated since the 1980s. It is likely to take another 12 months for revised planning permission, to be followed by a public inquiry, leading to a start in 2004.

If there is no inquiry, work could start early in 2003, so even the most optimistic option means there will be no work for at least two years. It is now likely the road will be built in one effort.

Mr Deegan said:

“Construction of the northern section alone would impose additional traffic on some existing roads, especially Addison Road and Lawford Heath Lane.

“Whilst on balance this was felt to be acceptable when construction of the southern section was so uncertain it is now felt that it is better to wait until the whole road can be constructed together.”

He said there will be a ‘substantial increase’ in the cost of the road scheme with the new route. 

It was thought that private developers building homes at Cawston would foot the whole cost of the scheme under the old plan.

It is likely the extra money will have to come from Government grants. The county council understands this money will be forthcoming as the Government Office for the West Midlands (GOWM) supports the rail reopening and will look favourably on the road scheme which is being displaced from the rail line.

It is likely to even see the road scheme extended further south towards the A45 at Potsford Dam - an idea that was abandoned some years ago because of cost.

Rugby Cement has closed its Southam works, but still needs to transport aggregate to the Rugby works. The company had planned to use three lorry routes between the plants to try and spread the load and lessen the impact.

Rugby’s MP had been pushing them to reopen the rail link – closed in the 1980s – which would keep the roads free of heavy traffic and bring the old line back into use.

Freight trains would head south-west from Rugby on the former Leamington line to Offchurch, then turn east on the old Daventry line as far as Southam. 

Both these lines closed to passengers in the 1960s, but were kept in use for freight for about another 20 years. They now stand empty, and mainly used for recreational use.

Mr King hopes eventually the whole stretch to Leamington could be reopened for passenger traffic, and even further ahead could lead to the reopening of village rail stations that closed nearly 40 years ago.


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CWN / Politics / Warwickshire County Council / 26 Sep 00

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