Commuters campaign over rail service threat
Commuters who use Bedwyn Station near Marlborough to work in London are campaigning to secure rail services as the government looks to roll out rail electrification.
The electrification of the rail line between London and South Wales will mean faster travel times for rail passengers using that route – including commuters who catch the train at Swindon.
But electrification of the line will stop at Newbury, and rail users on the Berks & Hants Line, on which the Bedwyn-to-Paddington trains run, fear a reduction of services at Hungerford, Kintbury and Bedwyn.
Transport minister Theresa Villiers has told MPs Claire Perry, whose constituency covers Bedwyn, and Richard Benyon, the member for Hungerford and Kintbury, that after 2016 diesel-only trains will not be able to run on the electrified line between Reading and Paddington.
It is proposed that through services to Exeter will be in two categories: a fast service between Paddington and Reading, stopping at Reading and Taunton, using the existing high speed trains, and a slower service using 'bi-mode' trains that can run under the wire to Newbury and on diesel thereafter, between Paddington and Exeter, stopping at additional stations including Newbury, Pewsey and Westbury.
A worst case scenario after electrification could be the loss of direct trains into Paddington. Instead, passengers would have to catch a diesel shuttle service to Newbury, and change for the electric service.
Now Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group has taken up the cudgel to secure services for the Kennet Valley stations.
In an official response to the Great Western Draft Route Utilisation Strategy, the group says: “Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury have enjoyed an hourly off-peak service with additional peak trains for some years. More recently a sizeable percentage of these trains have operated directly to Paddington.
“We are concerned that from 2016, with only partial electrification, stations west of Newbury may be given a reduced or lower standard service.
“BTPG would strongly oppose either a shuttle service to Newbury or ‘skip-stopping’ for stations west of Newbury. The pointless attempt to reduce the service to Bedwyn and Kintbury in 2006 directly led to the formation of the BTPG and we see no valid reason for this to be considered again.”
The passenger group is concerned that rail operators underestimate the number of people using Bedwyn station because there is no ticket office or ticket machine, meaning the collection of accurate data is difficult. A November 2010 passenger survey by BTPG showed that 200 people used the outbound services from Bedwyn.
Meanwhile, Transition Town Marlborough and BTPG are campaigning for a better bus service between Marlborough, the villages and the station, for more information log on to www.transitionmarlborough.org and http://betterbedwynbuses.wordpress.com
Campaigners will be surveying train users about the viability of new bus services on Wednesday, November 23 from on the 8.40am train and the evening trains.