Dear Paul Farrelly,It is a year tomorrow that Mr. Derek Twigg in his then job as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport closed Etruria railway station. This was despite the fact that the public inquiry's report stated that it be kept open and was contrary to local opinion and needs. The given reason was that the track was to be aligned to 'increase speeds for through trains and so deliver shorter journey times benefiting passengers'.
Since the hasty closure, the track has not been aligned and the only thing to happen to the station was the removal of the station furniture in June. In fact I am sure that Virgin Trains passengers were glad that the station was there a few months ago when a train failed in the station and the passengers were able to easily leave the train!
All this highlights the Department for Transports lack of interest in the railways and public transport in general in North Staffordshire. The current consultancy document on the future of the rail franchises in this area states that a local service from Stoke to Stafford will not be restarted until 2009!
An example of how stupid things have become is if I want to travel by train to Manchester. This should be the easiest, quickest and most environmentally sensible way to get there. I could walk to the bus stop in May Bank, catch a bus to Longport (making the assumption that Etruria is now totally out of the question) and then catch a train to Manchester. I could the make exactly the same return journey.
Except I can't. There are two trains from Longport to Manchester in the morning at 06.50 and 07.20 and one returning at night at 17.58. Not exactly helpful or convenient.
Instead I have to got to Stoke to catch a train. Stoke is in the opposite direction to where I would be going, it is also time consuming to get there on public transport (bus to Newcastle or Hanley and then on to Stoke), takes a long time to drive there (whether the improvements to the A500 make a difference remain to be seen) and there is nowhere to park unless you want to pay £5 to park on Virgin's car park. The other options are to get someone to take you there and back, which adds to the congestion and pollution or get a taxi which is expensive. All to make a journey which should be relativity easy!
I hope you will be able the speak to Mr. Tom Harris, Mr. Twigg's successor, to find out what, if anything the DfT are planning to do about this disgraceful situation in the immediate future. As you know, Newcastle and North Staffordshire is slowly grinding to a halt and no-one in Government seems interested!