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Transition Town's £30m rail proposal welcomed by MP

Written by Peter Davison on .

Transport consultant Peter Ridal presents his report to Claire Perry MP while Graham Francis and Sam Page of Transition Marlborough and mayor Guy Loosmore look onTransport consultant Peter Ridal presents his report to Claire Perry MP while Graham Francis and Sam Page of Transition Marlborough and mayor Guy Loosmore look onAmbitious plans to extend the London rail link to Marlborough have been welcomed by MP Claire Perry, who has pledged to take the proposal to the minister for railways.

A report, An Outline Case for Restoring the Railway Line to Marlborough, has been prepared by transport consultant Peter Ridal on behalf of Transition Marlborough.

And on Friday, members of the organisation met with the MP to outline the £30 million proposal.

Mr Ridal told the MP: “Many of the people who have moved to Marlborough in the past 30 years are commuters using the train to get to London.

“However, with no station in the town they face a round trip of 15 miles to Bedwyn, 14 miles to Pewsey, 22 miles to Hungerford, or 28 miles to Swindon.”

Mrs Perry was reminded that Bedwyn was the most popular choice for Marlborough rail commuters, but that the community was struggling to cope with the influx of an estimated 139,000 travellers every year, the majority of whom bring their cars into the village.

The MP assured the group that the contents of her postbag meant the situation at Bedwyn was never far from her mind.

Campaigners have been demanding the re-establishment of a train service to Marlborough for 30 years or more, but the electrification of the line from London Paddington to Bedwyn - which will bring quieter, cleaner and faster trains to the area - is seen as a game changer.

Besides the environmental benefits of extending the railway to Marlborough, there is also a strong economic case for extending the railway line, and the cost-to-benefit ratio is estimated at 2.0 – far greater than that of the proposed HS2 rail link between London and Birmingham.

The proposal has the backing of the Chamber of Commerce, which said it would welcome the ease of use for commuters and the inward investment that a London rail link would bring. Marlborough Town Council has also formally backed the proposal.

Most of the six-miles of embankment between Bedwyn Station and the Crown Estates land opposite Marlborough Business Park - the proposed site of the new Marlborough Station - remain intact.

The scheme would mean the reinstatement of a bridge at Hat Gate and the construction of a new bridge over the busy A346 Salisbury Road, as well as a station platform and car park.

Voicing her support, although remaining cautious about its chances of success, Mrs Perry said she would be contacting rail minister Stephen Hammond to discuss the proposal.

But she added: “If I was the secretary of state for transport, I would say that £30 million was quite a lot of money for a relatively small town.

“However, there is an appetite in the department for post-Beeching reparations. I would be interested to test the water, and ascertain what hurdles we would have to jump to make a case.”

 Marlborough Station pic courtesy of Swindon's Other RailwayMarlborough Station pic courtesy of Swindon's Other RailwayTrains first came to Marlborough in 1864, when the east-to-west line from Savernake was opened. The north-to-south Swindon, Marlborough and Andover railway was opened in 1881, giving Marlborough two railway stations.

But the town’s rail fortunes started to decline in 1933 when the GWR station was closed, and passenger services were re-routed to the Midland and South Western Junction Railway station.

Passenger services to Marlborough were withdrawn in 1961, and goods services stopped running three years later.