Once upon a time, many years ago (we’ll keep the story short!) there used to be a link between Camberley’s ‘local’ railway track and the fast Main Line that passes through Farnborough. This link was in Frimley Green, and was called the Sturt Chord. But the link fell into disuse, and the track was removed – though the embankment on which it ran has been preserved ever since.
Now, just about everyone involved in Camberley’s train service – that’s the train operators, Network Rail, the borough and county councils AND the passengers – accepts that the service is poor. It’s infrequent, usually involves changing trains, and it’s slow. So re-opening the Sturt Chord has been on the wish list for quite a while. Indeed, the Surrey Rail Strategy of 2013 recommended exploring the idea as a longer-term option.
It’s because the Main Line is currently overloaded, that reinstating the link can only be a longer-term option. But, looking ahead, things might change, not least because of Crossrail 2. So, in the second half of last year, the county council commissioned Arup – the highly-regarded consulting engineers – to look at the “option to introduce a Sturt Road Chord and grade-separated link [in layman’s terms, that’s a ‘flyover’] to allow direct services on the South West Main Line (SWML), subject to released capacity being provided by other SWML schemes (e.g. Crossrail 2) and subject to a business case assessment.”
The primary objectives of the Arup study are:
“1) To assess the options for improving rail service frequency and journey times from Camberley to London via the SWML.
“2) To assess the costs of each of these options, and thus estimate the benefits that would need to be achieved in order to produce a positive business case. The costs that will need to be established for each option will consider infrastructure and other capital costs.”
Needless to say, the Arup report’s findings will be of considerable local interest. Publication of the report seems to have slipped somewhat, but we gather that this is in a good cause. We’ve recently been told that “The councils [that’s the borough and county councils] are working together to sign off the report with Arup, which is almost complete. Members will then receive a presentation of the report along with a joint local authority (Surrey and Surrey Heath) rail action plan. Following the presentations, the report and joint rail action plan will be made publicly available.”
A “joint rail action plan”. Let’s hope that it contains good news, and that it promises improvements to our train service before TOO long.