Robin Walker, MP for Worcester and a Vice Chair of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group (CLPG) spoke in Transport Questions last week in the Chamber. Robin maintained the traction on his campaign for a two hour journey time between Worcester and London – a call which has been backed by all of South Worcestershire’s MPs and the Prime Minister himself.
Robin’s colleague, Chloe Smith MP, has succeeded with a similar rail campaign in Norwich in securing a 90 minute service between that city and the capital. She had asked a question about meetings with Network Rail to build on this success. Hence Robin referenced Chloe’s campaign in his question to the Minister, given that the cities are a similar distance from London but it takes so much longer to travel to Worcester.
Robin asked the Secretary of State and the Minister Claire Perry:
“The Secretary of State mentioned the great success of the Norwich in 90 campaign by my Honourable Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith). As he will know, Worcester is just six miles further from London than Norwich is, as the crow flies, and 15 miles further away by car, yet it regularly takes my constituents more than 150 minutes to reach the capital by train. Will he do everything he can to lean on Great Western and Network Rail to get our service down to under two hours on a regular basis?”
The Minister responded:
“My Honourable Friend and other Members—including the one my officials like to call “the MP for Witney”—have campaigned extremely hard on this very issue. There is a lot of work being done on finding ways to improve journey times, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right to suggest there is a lot to be done. We have started the work on delivery.”
Robin recently attended a meeting with Great Western Railways (GWR) North Cotswolds MPs and stakeholders including the CLPG about the Cotswolds line service. Senior Great Western management in this meeting reiterated their objective of improving the timetable and pointed out that there is one service that already runs between Worcester and London in just two hours. Subject to Network Rail’s final approval, Great Western are hoping to move towards an hourly service from Worcester to London, by early next year.
Local MPs including Robin, Harriet Baldwin and Nigel Huddleston have consistently called for journeys to be brought down to under two hours from Worcester. The Worcestershire Parkway station is now in development so combined with improvements to frequency: Robin hopes services will be faster, more reliable and give his constituents greater choice in where they depart from.
Together with the Worcestershire LEP and the Hereford and Worcester Chamber, Robin has lobbied Great Western who are now hoping to close the gap in services; from December 2015 when a new timetable will be published, there will be more services to stop at local stations between Worcester and London, and a further two hour fast service between London and Worcester. Both Robin and the PM have pressed the case for redoubling more of the line between Oxford and Worcester, which would be one way of achieving faster journey times but other opportunities include better signalling, faster rolling stock and taking more stopping time out of the timetable. Robin has also asked GWR to look at the case for adding a few fast services that stop at fewer stations as soon as the hourly timetable is filled.
The response from the Minister demonstrates that this is a priority for the Department of Transport.
“The campaign for a two hour journey time for Worcester will not be finished until we achieve a regular service of under two hours. It is welcome that there is one already available but this is not at the most useful time of day and we really need a two hour service in each direction. I want no stone unturned in achieving this as it is essential to make full use of our line and maximise the benefits to the local economy.”
“I was delighted to hear the Minister say that work has started on the delivery of this. It could make a massive difference to local businesspeople who currently too often travel via Birmingham to reach the capital and in attracting tourists from around the world to visit our beautiful County. When cities a similar distance can get a 90 minute service, getting ours down to 120 minutes seems an eminently reasonable demand.”
“I have been impressed at the unanimity with which the business community has responded to this campaign and it is great to see our LEP campaigning hard to achieve this vital transport priority. It is ironic that the Labour party are now campaigning for nationalisation of the railways when it was a nationalised British Rail that tried to get rid of this line completely. Where BR reduced the line to a single track, private investment, which built the railway in the first place, has helped to get much of the line redoubled. We need to finish the job and get Worcester the rail service that it deserves.”
Notes to Editors:
For Robin’s question and Minister’s response in Parliamentary Hansard see:
Robin has spoken up for a better service for Worcester on many occasions, see the following links for further information:
Robin has backed redoubling of the Costwold line even before he became an MP: