NETWORK Rail has unveiled its vision for the next 10 years in the south west, with some important changes on the cards for Westbury.
Amongst new changes proposed in the Network Rail ‘Rail Utilisation Strategy’ (RUS), include an extra platform at Westbury Railway Station, extra carriages on peak time trains and an additional hourly service to Swindon.
Passenger use of trains is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade, the period covered by the RUS document.
An additional platform would help eliminate a “pinch point” which currently exists at Westbury, and enable a quicker and more efficient service through the station.
The proposals recommend a faster morning and evening peak service on the Westbury to Bristol line, but fewer stops on the route. An additional stopping service would be introduced to cater for passengers who need to depart at stations that would otherwise be missed.
Bob Lee, Dilton March resident and secretary of the West Wiltshire Rail Users Group (WWRUG), said, “I think these changes would be superb. Westbury is an important station and is growing in importance. The extra platform is there waiting to be used, it’s going to help. I hope the money is forthcoming.”
The proposals form part of Network Rail’s strategy over the next decade, but at this stage are not 100 per cent confirmed, but are high-level recommendations, subject to funding approval.
Although the RUS report states that it would like to see the additional platform at Westbury in use by early 2011, no specific timetable exists as yet.
On commuter trains that go through Westbury, passenger demand is expected to grow in coming years. The station and railway line is also due to become busier with the creation of a track materials recycling depot at Westbury, and increased freight transport on the line, partly because of increased freight to support construction for the 2010 Olympic games.
Graham Ellis of the campaign group Save the Train said, “In the medium to long term, these proposals seem promising. I would say that things seem to be moving in the right direction, although there is a concern about whether or not these plans are moving far enough to deal with expected growth. Network Rail has based this on reduced growth figures. People are becoming more aware of the price of petrol and more aware of green issues.”
Graham Ellis added that he thought in particular that the additional platform at Westbury, and extra carriages on peak trains would offer valuable improvements for commuters.