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Question to Somerset County Council

In our 15th June edition in our articles in the Somerton Sentinel and Langport Leveller, we mentioned that we had put a formal question to Somerset County Council (SCC) asking why they were unsupportive of the idea of a railway station for Langport and/or Somerton. As promised the exact question and the SCC response provided by Councillor David Fothergill (who has Cabinet responsibility for transport) is posted here:

Question

You will no doubt be aware that at every level of local government and indeed national government too, support has been voiced for a station at Langport or Somerton.

Every part of local government that is, except this council.

Now I am sure we all understand that money is tight. It is surely right that the council has priorities. But when it makes them it should explain them, to those who will benefit and equally to those who will not.

This council has decided to give priority to supporting a feasibility study to look into the reopening of a station at Wellington. And I wish no disrespect to the people of Wellington and wish them well with their own station quest.

But if this council is saying Wellington is a priority ahead of Somerton/Langport, then it owes the people of Somerton/Langport an explanation as to why and on what grounds. And to date it has failed to do provide one, so I invite you now to give that explanation.

 

Response

I can clarify that the County Council is currently in discussion with parties promoting new stations at both Langport and Wellington. A key barrier to progressing either project is that a substantial amount of funding is needed up-front to demonstrate the business case to Government for investment in the construction of new stations. The business cases need to cover matters such as the passenger demand for such facilities, the detailed consideration of engineering options, value for money and ability of rail services to serve the new stations.

As we have previously stated, unfortunately the County Council is not in a position to fund these studies given that our constrained resources are currently focused on priorities which include looking after vulnerable adults and children.

I have been to Westminster to meet with the Rail Minister to outline these financial barriers with some limited success. However, at this time there is no clear funding mechanism available to this Council.

You have made the point that Somerset County Council appears to favour Wellington over Langport in this area. The reason that proposals for Wellington Station are slightly further ahead than proposals for Langport or Somerton is down to the fact that a passenger demand study has already been undertaken by Devon County Council as part their Devon Metro proposals which promote new facilities at Cullompton and Wellington. Taunton Deane Borough Council has also decided to contribute a significant amount of funding to progressing the Wellington proposals, but the funding they have allocated is insufficient to undertake all the necessary work. SSDC may wish to consider a similar contribution in relation to Langport or Somerton.

We therefore continue to press Government to centrally fund feasibility studies and remain committed with both these proposals.

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