Transition Marlborough say Wiltshire Council is out to close down debate on possible rail link
In an “Open letter to Marlborough Town Councillors, following Cllr Horace Pricket's presentation", Transition Marlborough have responded to the presentation at last week's meeting of Marlborough Town Council's planning committee on the proposal to re-establish a rail link to Marlborough.
As we reported, Councillor Prickett (Wiltshire Council's portfolio holder for transport), judged Marlborough against criteria used to see whether a town should have a station. As Marlborough has no existing rail connection to the town, that put Marlborough bottom of the list of those applying for stations.
Of course, Marlborough Transition's proposal was for both a rail line and a station. Councillor Prickett avoided finding the correct criteria for re-establishing the rail link.
The problem is that although other bodies have been sympathetic to the Transition Marlborough proposal, without Wiltshire Council support, no one will look at it seriously or provide seed money for a feasibility study. As it is Wiltshire Council will not even write a letter of support - never mind provide manpower or financial support - and no progress has been made.
The letter is addressed to the Town Clerk and signed by Peter Ridal, John Yates and Sam Page on behalf of Transition Marlborough's Transport Group. We publish it in full:
While we were grateful for the opportunity to hear Cllr Horace Prickett's presentation last Monday, it was clear from the out-set, that his intention was to close down all debate surrounding improving access to the rail network in Marlborough. Firstly he threw in two red herrings, by asking who had responded to the recent GWR consultation and then whether Marlborough had a 'rail users' group'.
A response to the GWR Consultation required detailed knowledge of the current SW rail service and how it could be improved. Our local town councillors could not be expected to have this knowledge (see the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group's response ). Many people from the Marlborough Area access the rail network via Bedwyn station and are already supporters of the BTPG, since there is no station in Marlborough! This was done to put us at a disadvantage.
The screening method presented by Cllr Pricket was entirely arbitrary. The standard method of assessment according to Network Rail is the 'GRIP' process that starts with a feasibility study that inter-alia would take account of demand for use of the rail network and benefits to the community. We note that he did not mention TM's work on economic benefits, which showed that a new rail-link could have a benefit to cost ratio of 2:1. Or the pleas made by the 1,000+ residents, who signed up to our rail link consultation in 2014, for improved access to the rail network to increase job opportunities and to help them keep in touch with friends and family.
The presentation failed to address the serious transport problems that people without cars have in Marlborough, or the impact that the planned improvements to the train service to and from Bedwyn could have on Great Bedwyn when they are implemented next year. Congestion and parking is already severely impacting life in this village.
Wiltshire Council does not seem to have a clear strategy for railways in Wiltshire or a good understanding of these long-standing transport issues. Its approach appears to be entirely ad hoc and the proposition that it is necessary to form pressure groups to influence WC is quite ridiculous.
Based on the above, we feel that Wiltshire Council, as the transport authority, is not treating the residents of Marlborough and Great Bedwyn in a fair and proper manner. With justified investment Marlborough could be connected to the national rail network and so reduce its dependency on private cars and provide better access to public transport for those without cars.
The intrusive environmental issues in Great Bedwyn could also be significantly eased. The first step should be a feasibility study to examine all the options, impacts and benefits. If this fails to meet the necessary criteria then so be it, we could at least say that Wiltshire Council has done its duty.