After years of campaigning Worcester’s MP Robin Walker has welcomed written confirmation from Great Western Railways that trains on the route between Worcester and London will complete the journey in under two hours before the end of 2019.

He was told today that the 17.34 from London to Worcester and the popular 6.43 train from Worcester to London will achieve the journey between Shrub Hill and London Paddington in 1 hr 59 minutes and 1 hr 57 minutes respectively as from December 15th.

Robin has long campaigned for a faster and more regular service between Worcester and the capital as well as for more trains and carriages on the Birmingham line. He raised the issue of faster train services in his maiden speech and has pressed Transport and Treasury Ministers as well as the management of Great Western on it ever since. Today’s confirmation is the first time that GWR have been explicit on specific trains achieving the two-hour target and they have confirmed that they will also be delivering an hourly service.

Worcester’s service to and from London was almost abolished completely in the 1960s when a nationalised rail system commissioned the Beeching cuts to “rationalise” railway lines and the Cotswold line, a feat of railway engineering delivered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was assigned to be pulled up between Oxford and Worcester.

Campaigners formed the Cotswold Line Promotion Group and succeeded in persuading British Rail merely to downgrade the line to a single track rather than scrapping it. Robin, who is a vice chair of the CLPG joined the campaign of his fellow Worcestershire MP Peter Luff to have much of that line redoubled when he first became an MP and worked with other MPs along the line including former Prime Minister David Cameron to have this delivered.

Following its delivery, he has consistently pressed First Great Western to run more trains and faster services. Last year and in 2016 he gathered together business groups to keep up the pressure for improvements and joined Worcestershire County Council, Worcestershire LEP and the Chambers of Commerce in pressing for a faster service under the banner of #FasterWorcester and Fast Track Worcester.

He has also consistently backed the 30-year campaign for Worcestershire Parkway, a new station for the county which will delivered just outside Worcester later this year and he is looking forward to the first trains stopping there, which will allow thousands of Worcester constituents to access the railway. The new station will provide vital connectivity to cross country routes between Cardiff and Nottingham and could add new services between Bristol and Birmingham in time.

Commenting on the news today Robin said

“For years I have been pressing for a sub two-hour service and time and time again it has seemed just over the horizon, I am delighted to have it confirmed today that there will now be trains running under that crucial time within the next two months. Whilst a few minutes difference might seem unimportant to many people, I am well aware of the crucial psychological barrier between a journey of 2 and a half hours and a journey of less than 2 hours. I have heard from businesses that they consider a journey time of less than 2 hours a crucial factor in where they locate their offices and this small step can make a real difference to investment in our city and county.”

“Of course, my campaign doesn’t stop here, I want to see more services stopping at Parkway, more connectivity from there to Birmingham and Bristol, more carriages and more seats on the services that run between Birmingham and Worcester as well as many more Great Western trains running to these timescales. I hope local businesses, councils and the CLPG will continue to work with me to promote all of these campaigns.”

“What this news does show is that our railways can deliver through a mix of private and public investment what a nationalised system never could. Under a nationalised British Rail with the railways competing for money with schools and hospitals, Worcester very nearly lost its connection with London entirely and if Jeremy Corbyn unleashes the uncertainty of a new era of nationalisation on the railway system, we can say goodbye to improvements of this sort. In the last twenty years we have seen huge growth in the number of passengers and in the local economy in Worcestershire, more than justifying a fast, reliable service between our city and the capital. I want to ensure we keep that and keep improving it.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For the latest information on GWR’s timetable and plans for December 15th please see:

https://www.gwr.com/plan-journey/timetable-2019

For Robin’s previous campaigns for faster services see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/?s=trains

https://www.walker4worcester.com/2018/04/worcester-mp-meets-with-great-western-to-push-for-service-improvements/

https://www.walker4worcester.com/2018/01/worcesters-transport-on-track-under-the-conservatives-at-risk-from-labour/

https://www.walker4worcester.com/2016/02/businesses-must-speak-out-now-to-strengthen-case-for-fast-track-worcester/

For details of the plans to close the Cotswold line in the 1960s, please see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeching_cuts

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmtran/169/169we06.htm