THE campaign to bring back passenger trains running through Middlewich and reopening Middlewich Train Station has been given its biggest boost yet, according to the campaign group. 

The Secretary of State for transport, Chris Grayling MP, responded to a question on the rail line posed by Congleton MP Fiona Bruce in the House of Commons on Thursday.

The campaign to reopen the Mid Cheshire Rail Link, which links Sandbach and Northwich via Middlewich and Gadbrook Park, to passenger trains, has been running for around 30 years.

If passenger train services returned to the line, Middlewich’s station would be rebuilt and a new station is likely to be opened at Gadbrook Park business park.

It has been gathering momentum in the past few years and now looks closer than ever to becoming a reality.

In what is said to be the most positive step forward so far for reopening the line, which links Sandbach and Northwich via Middlewich, Mr Grayling picked out the Mid Cheshire Line as one of two priorities.

He said: “There are two routes in the north I feel particularly keen to look at seriously reopening. One is the line from Skipton to Colne.

“The other is the line that passes through Middlewich that, in my view, should be a commuter railway into Manchester.

“Transport for the North has been working on the options, and I am committed to ensuring that we take that work forward.”

Mr Grayling also confirmed that a strategic outline business case to reopen the freight-only line had been formally requested by government.

Fiona Bruce MP was buoyed by the response and said she would continue to push for the reopening of the line until it happened.

She said: “I am very pleased that a strategic outline business case has been requested by Government.

“This response from the secretary of state clearly confirms that, as he said, the Government will be looking at this seriously and I am committed, as I have said before, over many years campaigning, that I will continue to champion the re-opening of Middlewich station until we see it happen.”

Stephen Dent, chairman of the Mid Cheshire Rail Link Campaign group, has now told the Guardian that this was a ‘major step forward’ for the campaign, but insisted everything rested on the study which was now being carried out.

Stephen said: “It’s really good news. I have spoken to Fiona Bruce and thanked her for raising it again in Parliament.

“We’re extremely pleased with what the secretary of state for transport has said. Previously, he’s said that he supports it, but he’s never said before that it’s a priority and to pick it out as one of two rail lines to reopen is really positive news.

"He didn’t specifically say where the money is coming from, but it looks like a major step forward.

“Much depends on the study that’s ready to be undertaken by the Transport for the North, the Local Enterprise Partnership and both Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“If the study comes back showing a lot of problems I’m sure the secretary of state will change his mind on his priorities, but we’re convinced it will come out smelling of roses.”