AN INCENSED rail user group has slammed Stratford and Warwick districts’ joint economic strategy as “properly clueless”.
The scathing attack comes as Stratford and Warwick district councils put their “Economic Development Strategy” out for public consultation.
The strategy – agreed by both councils – aims to guide economic policies in the two areas, seeking to create a stronger, greener economy within five years and align with the local plan currently being prepared to shape development until 2050.
The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group formed in 1969 and representing local train passengers, has described the strategy as widely missing the mark by pushing road use over rail use during a climate change emergency.
Peter Morris, Chair of SLPG, said: “We are in despair that the district and county councils are still focused on road transport as its transport investment priority. Rail over significant road investment must be a fundamental policy change in south Warwickshire.
“Over the past five years, as volunteers, we have worked hard on things designed to support local businesses and our local economy. The strategy is a chance to get ahead of the curve and provide real and tangible support to our local economy. Instead, we have a 1960s approach to 21st century issues and needs.
“This so-called strategy is not compatible and contradictory with councils that have declared a ‘climate change emergency. Road transport is responsible for 80 per cent of nitrogen dioxide emissions and rail just 1.6 per cent. Road traffic accounts for 72 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions from transport, and rail accounts for less than one per cent.”
He continued: “As Stratford and Warwick District Councils, as well as Warwickshire County Council, have declared a Climate change emergency, their planning and transport policies need to be radically changed accordingly, so that alternatives to road construction are prioritised, including rail.”
Mr Morris also said that significant improvements to train services, including expansion by restoring the Stratford to Honeybourne line, should be at the core of any Economic Strategy.
He added: “Stratford only attracts six per cent of visitors by rail compared to 12 per cent for similarly important visitor locations. Moving Stratford to the 12 per cent level of visitors by rail that other comparable destinations enjoy amounts to 650,000 visitors and is worth around £46.5million to the local economy.
“The strategy largely ignores rail, let alone embraces it or supports critical elements that could deliver a step change to train services and the local economy. It fails the people and businesses of south Warwickshire, it is a poor effort and is properly clueless.”
Speaking on behalf of both councils, SDC Leader Coun Tony Jefferson said he disagreed with SLPG’s assessment.
He continued: “The strategy identifies a core economic area of opportunity that seeks to capitalise on the proximity of south Warwickshire to HS2 as well as the potential of the Long Marston Rail Innovation Centre to the south of Stratford. Also, one of the objectives seeks to work with Shakespeare’s England and tourism businesses to de-carbonise the tourism sector including through more sustainable travel.
“The strategy does not focus on the North Warwickshire rail line which traverses the Green Belt, but I look forward to the SLPG’s comments in this regard if they think we’ve got this wrong.”