Despite our hard work trying to make progress with the Marlborough Rail Link project over the past few months, we have had little or no luck in convincing Wiltshire councillors to take this important project seriously.
Our first task, in October 2014, was to convince Crown Estates to leave space for an access road in the new Salisbury Road housing estate. Thanks to your support for this request the necessary change seems to be evident in the new plan.
In December 2014, we met with Cllr Horace Prickett, who is the portfolio holder for transport in Wiltshire Council and he agreed to find out how we could access funds for a feasibility study (estimated to be £15,000). A positive outcome from this feasibility study (i.e. a Benefit:Cost Ratio of 2.0 or more) would enable the project to be accepted into Network Rail's 'GRIP' process and it could then be implemented within the next 10 years.
In early January 2015, Cllr Nick Fogg accompanied us to a meeting with Isobel Brown, the Director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership as this organisation is responsible for implementing large-scale transport projects in the County. Isobel told us that although government grants are available, she would not be in a position to fund the Marlborough Rail Link without the support of Wiltshire Council. She also admitted that Claire Perry M.P. had complained that while a great deal of development is going on in the south and west of Wiltshire, little or no development is being planned for the Devizes constituency.
Since we did not get a further response from Cllr Prickett, despite several follow-up emails, we have taken our case to Cllr James Sheppard, who agreed to make an appointment for us to meet with Parvis Khansari, the Associate Director of Highways and Transport, who we hope, will be able help us access the required funding for this feasibility study. We are still waiting for feedback from Cllr Sheppard.
In the meantime, it has been announced that First Great Western will be the new franchise holder for trains running out of Paddington. They recently wrote to our colleagues in the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group to inform them that the direct service between Bedwyn and London Paddington would cease to exist by May 2017:
"As you know from our discussions there is no immediate solution to the loss of through services on the Bedwyn to Newbury corridor given electrification is not being extended. This means in May 2017 Bedwyn to London services will be replaced by Newbury to London electric trains and Bedwyn to Newbury by diesel shuttles. "
"However, within the franchise we have committed to maintain at least one through peak service in each direction. Bedwyn, Kintbury and Hungerford will not therefore lose all their direct trains."
"We were also able to suggest a feasibility study into the use of Independently Powered electric trains over the route between Paddington and Bedwyn. The DfT have accepted that approach and have asked us to work up plans that would mean through services to Bedwyn, Kintbury and Hungerford could be re-established at levels similar to today by December 2018."
"We cannot guarantee the outcome of the study, but we think this is a practical option and will be doing our best to make it work. I will keep you updated."
You can read more about implications of the cut to these essential direct services, here...
Transition Marlborough's Transport Group will continue to support the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group in it's fight to keep the current direct service between Bedwyn and London Paddington, we are also keen to see the use of independently (battery) powered electric trains (pictured above) on this route. Such trains could be an integral part of the proposed Rail Link project as they could continue all the way to Marlborough without the need to electrify the new track.