ELECTRIFICATION of the railway line from London Paddington all the way to Westbury now looks unlikely, with a report from the Department for Transport’s consultants due this week.
Electrification of the line from London Paddington to Newbury is taking place, but campaigners had hoped that it could be extended to Westbury.
Electrification offers faster journey times and 20% more seats compared to diesel trains. Trains are better for the environment and cheaper to operate. Electrification would also have helped encourage the continuation of high speed direct services to Westbury.
The Department for Transport’s consultants ARUP have been investigating several options which consider if electrification could be extended past Newbury to Bedwyn; to Westbury; or a more ambitious option towards Swindon and Bath, allowing connections with the Mendip quarries.
ARUP have informed campaigners that the economic argument to extend electrification from Newbury to Westbury is not strong enough. ARUP’s report is due to be released on 7th June.
Rail campaign needs to continue
Ian Cunningham, of Westbury Train Watch said, “It is quite disappointing but we mustn’t give up on Westbury. We are still the main rail hub in Wiltshire, and we must keep reminding people of that.
“I’m sure the people who do serious train watching will be all over the figures to see if there’s something ARUP have completely missed.”
Fears for the future of Westbury’s high speed rail services to London were raised last year when it emerged that the Department for Transport’s invitation to tender did not specifically require the continuation of high speed through rail services between Westbury and London. Campaigners celebrated one piece of good news earlier this year, when the government cancelled the re-franchising of the route. Instead, the current contract with First Great Western – which maintains Westbury’s high speed through rail services to London – was extended. This should ensure the current level of service is continued until 2016. However, it had been hoped that electrification of the line would bode well for services after 2016.
Ian said, “We still need to put pressure on so that after 2016 we have a good sensible rail service.”