Transport Blog

Direct train service to London threatened

Published by Sam Page on 20 June 2014

The Department for Transport is seeking our views on the future of the Great Western train service, between Bedwyn and London Paddington, following electrification to Newbury by 2016:

Question 11. After the electrification to Newbury, expected in 2016 would passengers’ needs be best served by a diesel service from Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury to Newbury connecting into a fast service to London Paddington, or a diesel stopping service from Bedwyn to Reading connecting to a fast service from Reading to London Paddington, or other options? The former would give faster journey times to London but add a change at Newbury for passengers to Reading.

Here is our response, which was sent to the Department for Transport on 19th June:

Changing trains at either Newbury (where there are no facilities for the disabled) or Reading, after 2016 will not only be a reduction in service, but will also be completely untenable for rail passengers from Marlborough:

Since Marlborough does not have its own railway station, commuters who need to use the railway must travel to stations at Bedwyn (15 miles return) Hungerford (22 miles return) Pewsey (14 miles return) or Swindon (28 miles return) often on a daily basis. These journeys are made almost wholly by car as the bus services are unreliable and the Bedwyn bus does not arrive in time for trains that depart before 0841. Furthermore, where a working family has only one car, the return journey to the station must be made twice a day, leading to a doubling of the mileage. Bedwyn station is the most popular choice for Marlborough's residents, because it is the closest station, which has a regular train service throughout the day and has free parking.

At least 60% of the passenger journeys that are currently made out of Bedwyn station (estimated to be 138, 917 per year) originate outside the village of Great Bedwyn (which has a population of just 1, 347). The journey from Marlborough town centre to Bedwyn station involves turning off the A4 after 4.1 miles, then following un-marked, un-lit, winding country lanes for a further 3.4 miles. This can take about 20 minutes with a further 5 to 10 minutes needed to locate a parking space. More than 50% of the early morning commuters that arrive at Bedwyn station travel to London Paddington. Changing trains at either Newbury or Reading could add another 30 minutes to the journey, thus increasing the total journey time from Marlborough to London Paddington to more than 2 hours. This would lead to increased car journeys to Newbury or Reading stations, the entire journey being made by car, or families being forced to move away from Marlborough in order to be closer to a railway station that serves their work place.

In 2012, hundreds of local residents, who are Bedwyn station users wrote to Claire Perry M.P. in support of extending electrification beyond Newbury, in order to preserve the direct services to London Paddington. This included the Mayor of Marlborough Town Council, Edwina Fogg, who wrote: “This council recognizes electrification to Bedwyn as vital in the promotion of our town as a commuter, tourist, business and trading centre and as an important way of reducing road congestion and carbon emissions". In August 2012, Councillor Richard Gamble, Portfolio Holder for Public Transport in Wiltshire Council wrote: “Maintaining direct services to London is essential for communities in Wiltshire and underpins the growth of local businesses and the economic health of the area".

Therefore, any down-grading of the Bedwyn to London Paddington train service which increases the journey time from Marlborough will have a detrimental impact on the economic viability of our town.

The full Great Western Specification Consultation document can be found here...

Please endorse our response or send your own comments to: GWconsultation@dft.gsi.gov.uk with a copy to claire.perry.mp@parliament.uk

This consultation closes on Thursday 26th June 2014.