Following Ian Mean's column on the Great Western Powerhouse, transport economist Robert Crockford had this to say:

I live in Stonehouse and I am a regular reader of your column. A few weeks ago I read your comments on the Great Western Powerhouse. I was aware of the proposal, but I was interested to note that Stroud had a ‘seat at the table…and Stroud must not be left behind in the region’s collaboration plans'.

It caught my eye because I am involved in a local proposal to ‘re-cycle’ Stonehouse (Bristol Rd), which was closed post-Beeching.

My interest in the scheme began when I retired to my ‘home county’ after a career with BR, based in the South East.

After management training I started at the very sharp end on the Brighton Line, then 5 years doing passenger rail planning and research, followed by 10 years with our European Division (until the demise of boat trains). Finally I was with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1) at all stages of the project. I am also a Transport Economist. Thus I gained a huge experience of how railways ‘work’.

I joined Neil Carmichael’s local working party to help with the station proposal, but it later ground to a halt. It wasn’t helped when the County Council walked away for various reasons, compounded by a ‘Rail Strategy Study’ with totally inappropriate conclusions! I won’t recite ‘chapter and verse’ now, but here are some salient points which are relevant to the socio-economic and business interests of Gloucestershire.

1. The County is the poorest in GWR territory for generating rail traffic. Take away Cheltenham and the performance is abysmal. For example, as a County Town the City has twice the catchment population of Taunton but almost the same journeys. Worcester has more than twice as many journeys from a smaller population.

2. Stroud District is even worse, despite having an urban catchment population of over 50,000 (ie the Stroudwater Corridor of Stonehouse and Stroud). This urban corridor is probably the largest area just 30m away from its major regional Centre yet without direct rail access, despite being on the strategic NE/SW main line.

3. I believe there are currently c.4000 jobs within a few minutes walk of the (now closed) station, with 100s of houses being built nearby. It is quite astonishing that there is no rail access to Bristol and beyond; thus pushing traffic on to the M5 creating yet more congestion and pollution for the Mayor of Bristol.

4. Even more bizarre is the fact that SDC favours Dale Vince’s proposal for a new FGR Stadium and an Eco-Park with road access only. Yet it has not insisted on some support for the new station a few minutes away. How on earth can Stroud be carbon neutral by 2030 if it doesn’t actually require ways of achieving it? (I have just read your latest column about DV’s plans, I am in broad agreement - so far. Perhaps you could add a further line suggesting that DV become Manager of the Stonehouse Station Supporters’ Club! Or drop a strong hint to SDC likewise to avoid a non-sustainable ‘own goal’!)

5. I guess that Stonehouse is the nearest large commercial area north of Bristol. The M5 has helped to create an economic hot-spot, which is still growing, but it would be a nonsense from a business point of view if Stroud sat at the Great Western Powerhouse table if it had no direct rail access to Bristol, South Wales and beyond. This wouldn’t make your job easier.

6. I admire the way SDC has supported the Canal restoration which is creeping to completion and a full measure of environmental and tourism benefits. However, no one seems to have twigged that the re-opened station is a couple of minutes from the canal and a little bit further from a visitor centre. The station would give access to millions of people from the south. The SDC should see how GWR gives access to the Kennet & Avon between Bristol and Newbury.

7. Last week in your column you talked about the regeneration of Stroud and the wider district. This seemed to confirm my own thoughts that the town can be rather insular – tucked away in its pleasant valleys. This in turn was yet another example of why Stroud must be encouraged to support re-opening Stonehouse station to get back on track in the Bristol direction.

Although the SDC does not have a primary role in rail transport, it is frustrating and ironic that the planners can’t see the green wood for the trees in terms of sustainability. In the recently updated Local Housing Plan I had to search hard for any references to rail and bus, whilst Bristol is almost in another world!

As far as the City and County Council are concerned it is sad that the area which inspired my interest in transport has sunk to the bottom of the railway league. Unfortunately they seem to have lost the plot as far as remedial action is concerned and I am genuinely concerned that business and enterprise (technical and leisure based) in Stroud and the City are being limited by the poor or non existent rail connections with our economic ‘mother ship’ - Bristol and beyond.

My own calculations – using public data – suggest that a station at Stonehouse would generate 400,000+ journeys a year before any future growth. The revenue would cover the construction costs within a couple of years, and the area would be even more attractive for business. At the very least Gloucester needs a half-hourly service to Bristol (under consideration by WECA). If the powerhouse is to have any sustainable strength in its Northern arm the M5 must be supplemented by direct rail links connecting Bristol, Stroudwater/Stonehouse, Gloucester and Cheltenham.

It would be a huge help if some body like yours could rouse the District, County and the LEP (+ other stakeholders) to see more clearly what is being lost. It would certainly be appreciated by Stonehouse Town Council and also by Railfuture who are planning a campaign later this year for the re-opening of Stonehouse Station – to make it the Gateway to the Stroudwater Corridor.

If you or anyone else have any queries about my calculations or how I have come to various conclusions, I would be happy to discuss them in greater detail at any time. I realise that at the end of the day it comes down to finance, but over the years I found that it’s usually possible to circumvent the ‘nay-sayers’’ with some good ideas and a bit of creative accountancy!