Members of the Cranleigh Society attended a meeting on 30 April 2015 at the Parish Council Offices in Cranleigh called by Surrey County Councillor Alan Young, together with Paul Millin, Surrey County Council Group Manager for Travel and Transport, Bob Bayley Vice President of the Cranleigh Chamber of Commerce and Kenneth Mitchell representing the Neighbourhood Plan.

Paul Millin is responsible for local bus services, home to school transport, transport for adult social care, road safety , speed cameras and railways. He has worked for a number of years on viability studies for reopening the railway line between Cranleigh and Guildford; copies of these reports are now available at the Cranleigh Parish Council Offices. Mr Millin confirmed that previously the Cranleigh railway line had not operated at a profit.

Re-opening of the Cranleigh Railway Line

The original Guildford to Horsham via Cranleigh line was opened in 1865 and was a single track railway with passing places. The line was never very profitable and the 1963 ‘Reshaping of
British Railways’ report
indicated a flow of under 5,000 passengers per week. As a result the Guildford to Cranleigh line was closed in 1965. Since that time population in the area has grown considerably and this justified investigation into its re-opening.

In 1994 Surrey County Council were investigating infrastructure deficits in the area and this included commissioning a report from Colin Buchanan and Partners looking into the reopening of the railway line from Guildford to Horsham line via Cranleigh. It was concluded that there would not be enough people using the line to operate at a profit and also that there were too many physical structures; bridges and tunnels, which would be too costly to reinstate. The cost of reinstating the line just between Guildford and Cranleigh was projected at £24 million which would include the base, civil, electrical, engineering and signalling works. However it did not include land acquisition costs, legal costs and bridge works.

in 1996 British Rail projects carried out a further study to reopen the line and calculated the costs at between £11 to 14M, which was less than the previous estimate by Colin Buchanan in 1994. This was based on a rail service of one or two trains per hour. As part of the study they sent out questionnaires to local residents and from these it was estimated that only 12% of journeys were made to Guildford or London, with the remaining 88% being made to other parts of Surrey. The questionnaires also forcasted a reluctance on the part of car users to use this method of transport. The study concluded that the line would require substantial public sector investment which could not be justified and the business case for re-opening the line was negative.

In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) called for the Cranleigh Line to be reopened from Guildford to Bramley and Cranleigh as part of a number of additions to the existing rail network proposed in the Connecting Communities report. ATOC in its report estimated the cost would be approx £63 million. Waverley Borough Council Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee (ELOS) agreed to review the ATOC report. During this review ATOC confirmed that the “study has only established that a route is physically possible, and a detailed feasibility study would be required to ensure that the best route were chosen and to confirm that there was a good business case”. ATOC also acknowledged that the final cost could be closer to £100M.

ELOS concluded that a further feasibility study would involve significant cost and no authority had funding to carry it out. There were also significant concerns raised over the ability to provide a rail link together with a replacement footpath and bridle path alongside on the Downslink without significant environmental impacts or re-routing. There were also a number of engineering obstacles to the proposal, in particular the location of new stations at Bramley and Cranleigh.

The reopening of the line was looked at again recently in 2013, as part of Surrey County Council’s rail strategy and was still not considered to be viable.

Extract Surrey County Council REport 2013 reopening Cranleigh Railway

Paul Millin in the meeting pointed out that the the environmental constraints to the reinstatement included a history of flooding in the area, the fact that the majority of the route is in green belt and width constraints at particular points. Consideration must also be given to the detrimental effect of noise, vibration and visual impact on local residents and property adjacent to the Downslink.

The Downslink is protected as a public bridleway and footpath and this must be accommodated alongside any transport solution, which also must include high safety fencing to prevent animals and pedestrians from straying onto any tracks.

Paul Millin confirmed that there are currently plans to remodel Guildford station, which delivers benefits to a far wider number of people, and this does not involve the reinstatement of the Cranleigh line.

A Guided Bus on the Cranleigh Downslink

There have been recent discussions regarding the provision of a guided bus service on the downslink. Guided buses are normal buses that can travel along the public highway but also have guide wheels attached to the side of the bus that engage with high vertical kerbs and keep the bus centralised on the track, which means that they can travel at high speeds. Passengers get on and off the bus at platform areas along the guided bus line.

Guided Bus Cambridge

guided bus side wheels

Mr Bob Bayley outlined his 2 year study at a starting cost of £25M although at present he confirmed that no investigation had been carried out regarding projected numbers of users of the service and it’s ongoing viability. This project would be funded by pooling developers contributions from significant housing estates in Cranleigh and would, it was proposed, also service the high housing numbers (up to 5,000 dwellings) being discussed for Dunsfold.

The proposal included a large car parking behind Lashmere in Cranleigh to accommodate passengers cars. The bus would start at Stockland Square on the road and then be guided by way of concrete kerbs onto the Downslink. It would cross the main A281 at Shalford by way of a suggested level crossing. The impact on traffic on the A281 of this level crossing has not yet been investigated.

Paul Millin confirmed in a letter to Anne Milton MP on 9 February 2015 that:

“even at the upper range of new housing. It is not clear that any potential increase in demand/patronage would be sufficient to make reopening the Guildford-Cranleigh link for rail or as a bus ‘guideway’ economically justifiable.” He also estimated the cost of the guided bus at “several tens of £millions”. Finally he concluded that “spending taxpayers’ money on revisiting earlier work seems of little value.”

view from guided bus travelling along rails

The current Cranleigh proposal is based on a model in Cambridge which suffered hugely from rising costs, with the final bill running into £161M and more recently problems with the concrete guide rails. You can read a chronological account on the No Guided Bus website.

We will keep you informed of any further developments.

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