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A local MP is urging his constituents to respond to a consultation on the future of train services between London and Worcestershire. He says the “ludicrous gaps” in the current service are a real barrier to making the best of the newly redoubled line.

In his response to the government’s consultation document on the future of the Great Western franchise, Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff challenges an assertion that “the current weekday off-peak service pattern is broadly …. Hourly”.

He argues for three things to be a condition of the new franchise, which will start in April 2013 and is currently operated by First Great Western:

• An hourly service on the route, building to a half-hourly service,
• a faster service, and
• the construction of Worcestershire Parkway Station

In his response, Peter highlights the large and irregular gaps in current services between Evesham and London with gaps after the 09.04 service of:
o 1 hour 27 mins,
o 2 hours,
o 1 hour 59 mins,
o 36 mins,
o 1 hour 15 mins,
o 1 hour 27 mins, and
o 1 hour 24 mins.
He says,

“The full potential of the Cotswold Line is not being achieved because of long journey times, an irregular and infrequent service pattern and inadequate car parking. Many potential passengers choose either to drive or to make their journeys to London via Warwick Parkway or Birmingham International because of these inadequacies.

“[There] is emphatically not an hourly service. Moving to a true hourly service in both directions, with something much closer to the same minutes past each hour for departures, would greatly enhance passenger confidence in and use of the service. The medium-term ambition should be for a half-hourly service in the morning and evening peaks, building to a full half-hourly service at all times of day in the longer term.

“Furthermore, at the time of privatisation there were at least two trains a day in each direction that completed the journey between London and Worcester Shrub Hill in less than two hours. Now the fastest train to London is, I calculate, 2 hours 13 minutes with many taking much longer. From London to Worcester the fastest is 2 hours 12 minutes, again with several taking much longer.

“I emphasise the need to continue to serve Evesham, Pershore and Honeybourne stations, but it must be possible to offer more trains running at the fastest times and subsequently possible, after electrification from Oxford to London, to complete the journey between Worcester and London in around two hours.

“There is the final problem of inadequately secure and reliable car parking availability at all Worcestershire’s rail stations. Fortunately a solution is at hand and this should feature in the franchise award.

“The new franchisee should be expected to cooperate in the creation of a new Worcestershire Parkway station at Norton in my constituency, serving all of south Worcestershire, with adequate car parking and enabling interchange with Cross-country trains to Bristol and Birmingham. This would greatly assist the economic development strategy of the county and play a major part in reducing long distance car journeys. It is likely to be highly profitable for the train companies.”


Peter Luff 01905 763952

Notes for editors (from the DfT press release)
1. The Great Western Franchise Replacement consultation, which starts today, closes on 31 March 2012. The Department for Transport will produce a summary of the consultation responses alongside the Invitation to Tender, which will be published in May 2012. The winning bidder will be announced in December 2012 with the new franchise set to start in April 2013.
2. The new operator will be expected to manage the franchise alongside planned upgrades to infrastructure and services, including the provision of extra carriages, the redevelopment of Reading station, the electrification of the line, the Crossrail project, the Intercity Express Programme and the Swindon-Kemble line redoubling.
3. A copy of the consultation document is available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/dft-2011-36

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