Three Tory MPs, including Marlborough’s Claire Perry, are due to meet Transport Minister Simon Burns on Tuesday to discuss the threatened cuts to local train services.
Thousands of constituents who use Pewsey, Bedwyn and Hungerford to travel to Newbury, Reading and Paddington will be affected if the current Great Western services are not maintained under a new franchise.
The other MPs so far involved are government junior minister Richard Benyon (Newbury) and Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire).
Commuters worries have been outlined in more than 100 letters signed by Marlborough residents, which delivered to Claire Perry’s constituency office in Devizes yesterday (Monday).
A special message was sent to Nick Fogg, a Marlborough and Wiltshire councillor, before Marlborough town council’s meeting last night by Dr Sam Page, chair of Transition Marlborough, which includes a specialist transport group.
“We note that this issue is not on this evening’s agenda and are, therefore, extremely disappointed that Marlborough town councillors are not following the example of their colleagues in Great Bedwyn, Hungerford and Pewsey, in condemning the DfT’s failure to ensure that the current level of services is maintained by the next Great Western franchise holder.”
She also complained that the town council was “failing to support Ms Perry and Wiltshire councillor Richard Gamble in their efforts to persuade the Minister to revise the ‘Great Western Franchise Invitation to Tender’, so that it does not lead to cuts in future train services.”
And she pointed out on the grounds that they would lead increased road congestion and associated CO2 emissions, because of increased dependence on private cars, reduced job opportunities for people without cars and an associated acceleration in the exodus of young adults from our town.
A third issue would be falling house prices as our town becomes even more isolated from public transport.
|Pause in West Coast tender battle will help us, reveals Tory MP Claire Perry
Some headway has been made through parliamentary pressure and the delay in granting the West Coast rail franchise, Claire Perry has revealed to Marlborough News Online.
“We have also written repeatedly to the Department of Transport requesting that they review the services specifications in the franchise documents,” she said.
“And I was very pleased to see that there was some movement in this area — such as reinstating the peak time service to London Paddington and requiring that the service provides a call at Bedwyn.
“However, I do not yet believe that these amendments give us enough reassurance and I will continue to press the Department for more specificity on these services.”
The time element has also changed following the Secretary of State’s decision to cancel the West Coast service franchise, when it was about to be awarded to First Great Weston.
“Our own local franchise programme has been ‘paused’,” said Mrs Perry. “I think this pause is very helpful as it will enable us to push for a further review and re-specification of the Invitation To Tender to ensure that any winning bidder is obliged to safeguard our local services.
“While I am reassured by the operating companies that not electrifying the line will not necessarily mean a reduction in services – as dual train modes can still operate – I do think it would be helpful to increase the speed on the line and therefore this is something we will continue to explore.”
Mrs Perry met members of the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group at Bedwyn station last Friday.
“Claire was very reassuring and is actively trying to resolve the issue,” said spokesman Steve Smith. “She is very aware that any cuts to direct services to Paddington or Reading are not acceptable.”
“Among other anecdotal stories, we made it clear that the hourly Exeter semi-fasts, being removed from the ITT by the DfT, make no sense when it would have provided an adequate service.”
“We asked her to press the DfT to do the decent thing and re-instate the requirement to run an hourly Exeter semi-fast. We pointed out that this would make faster journey times for Plymouth passengers, resolve all our problems and act as a suitable stop-gap until the line is fully electrified.”
Everyone hit by the threatened services is being asked to write to their MPs telling them how they will be hit by a loss of rail links.
“What we need is personal evidence,” said Mr Smith. “How the cuts — to a diesel shuttle service to Newbury — will affect you. This can include your rail journeys, your house price fears, fears on the local economy.”
“Does your business depend on the rail service? Quite simply please write to Claire on how it’ll impact upon you or your business.”