The Launceston Steam Railway has publically announced its withdrawal from the TRAC (Tourism and Rural Access in Cornwall) Project – a scheme led by Cornwall Council to build a new multi-use trail between Launceston and Egloskerry.
As part of the project it was intended to extend the steam railway for a further two miles to the village of Egloskerry. In return for Cornwall Council making the land available for this extension, the steam railway company would allow the trail to run along land it owns between Launceston and Newmills.
Negotiations between the Council and the railway have been taking place for the past three years. Throughout this period the railway has firmly committed itself to the original plan for a railway and multi-use trail from Launceston to Egloskerry. This original plan has also been supported by the local town and parish councils, local businesses and numerous local residents.
The railway has demonstrated its commitment to the scheme by investing nearly £100,000 in new track and developing a diesel railcar for the Egloskerry extension. The railcar was intended to provide an off-peak tourist and public transport service to Egloskerry, which would be of particular benefit to the local community at a time when public transport links are under threat due to spending cuts imposed by Cornwall Council.
To date Cornwall Council have spent £500,000 on the multi-use trails it intends to build in North Cornwall at Launceston and Bude. No physical work has started on the trail at Launceston and no land for the trail has been purchased except for a road overbridge at Newmills, bought from British Railways Residuary Board for £1 and only necessary for the project if the railway was to be extended – a trail could easily be diverted a short distance to cross the road on the level. A very small section of the Bude trail has been built, through an already-existing bridge under a main road.
As a result of the railway’s withdrawal from the project, Cornwall Council now intend to build the trail on an alternative route. This route would mainly be along the existing narrow minor road between Launceston and Newmills – which is likely to be a major safety hazard for the cyclists, horse riders and walkers who would use the trail.
Nigel Bowman, chairman of the Launceston Steam Railway, commented “The Launceston Steam Railway only exists due to the pro-active involvement of the abolished North Cornwall District Council and Cornwall County Council and it is a shame that the new unitary authority, Cornwall Council, has proved so difficult and obstructive to deal with. This sorry situation must serve as a dreadful warning to any parties wishing to invest in Cornwall, and is in stark contrast to Cumbria where the South Tynedale Railway is currently building an extension alongside a multi-use trail with full co-operation from the local authority.”
The Launceston Steam Railway page on British Heritage Railways has been updated accordingly.