Fringe Box



Transport Matters: The Most Ill-judged Cut of All

Published on: 27 Mar, 2023
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2023

A new occasional series of opinion articles on the increasingly important subject of our local transport…

By Tony Derbyshire

Have you ever queued on the A281 Horsham Road south of Guildford?

If you live south of Guildford you almost certainly have and with thousands of more homes expected to be built in the Cranleigh area things can only get worse.

The situation highlights the poor foresight of Dr Beeching’s decision to close the Guildford to Horsham line in his infamous report “The Reshaping of British Railways” was published fifty years ago today.

Down Guildford to Horsham train at Bramley and Wonersh on June 12, 1965, the last day of public services on the line.

Some two years later in June 1965 the last Cranleigh train departed from Guildford and the 19-mile line was closed, it was the only line closed in Surrey.

But shouldn’t it have been obvious even in the baby boom 1960s that with an ever-increasing population and an antiquated road network difficult to enlarge that closing branch lines was short-sighted?

Cranleigh station in 1965. Image Ben Darnton.

Certainly, since that date, the population in all the towns and villages the line served has grown substantially and, consequently, the A281 has become very busy. Frequently, at certain times of the day, it is congested.

There has been much debate almost since the line was closed. More recently, in the last two years, the Guildford Society and the English Regional Transport Association have held meetings about the subject. Waverley Borough Council is deciding on a plan to reopen the Wey and Arun Canal through Bramley which might impinge upon the possibility of reopening the railway, a matter yet to be resolved.

Around 2,000 homes are expected to be built on Dunsfold Aerodrome. Car ownership in Surrey is on average about two per home.

The government, in January 2020, announced a “Restoring Your Railway Fund” which was part of a £500 million commitment to reopen closed railway lines and stations.

I can’t find any evidence that either Waverley BC or Guildford BC has attempted to make an application for funds to re-open the line despite the Department of Transport in 2020 inviting MPs, local authorities and community groups to use various types of funding to take these matters forward.

Back in 2018 Sajid Javid, then Secretary of State, granted permission for between 1,800 and 2,600 homes to be built at “Dunsfold Park”, previously Dunsfold Aerodrome. It seems that road works to access the A281 form Dunsfold Park are presently in progress.

With the advent of new technology such as battery trains and tram-trains it seems inconceivable that the opportunity to reopen the line has been lost for the moment especially when you consider the extra road traffic that Dunsfold will create in the next few years.

Surely Waverley and Guildford Councils, with the assistance of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, whose new constituency includes most of Waverley borough, with the support of Angela Richardson could insist that the railway line from Guildford be reopened to Cranleigh and then turn right along the B2130 as a ram into Dunsfold?

The technology is ready, trams run on roads in Manchester, Sheffield and other UK towns, including nearby Croydon, as well as all over the continent. Are we asking too much from our leaders to reduce congestion and air pollution? Isn’t it what is termed a “no-brainer”?

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Responses to Transport Matters: The Most Ill-judged Cut of All

  1. H Trevor Jones Reply

    March 28, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Re-opening the Guildford to Cranleigh (and Horsham?) railway, sounds to me, on a pound-for-benefit basis, to be much better value for money than a long A3 tunnel under Guildford and the River Wey.

    Whether it should be national rail or light rail is an open question. If national rail, it could have through trains to London and even one day be part of a Reading – Guildford – Horsham – Shoreham – Brighton through route.

    Even in the USA, the land of motor cars, they have just announced proposals for re-opening to passengers a long-distance route going inland north-west from New York, so why can’t we at least do Guildford-Cranleigh?

  2. Bill Stokoe Reply

    March 28, 2023 at 10:01 pm

    A thought-provoking article from a renowned rail system watcher and enthusiast.

    Bill Stokoe is the chair of the Guildford Vision Group

  3. Harry Eve Reply

    March 29, 2023 at 9:22 am

    Tram buses of the kind to be introduced by Tfl might offer a cheaper solution if the service is sufficiently frequent. This would avoid the need to disturb the countryside – there has been far too much of that around Guildford. See

    Having said that I look forward to more articles in this series and agree with the point concerning the cost of an A3 tunnel.

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