Rail commuters from Keynsham are being invited to attend a public meeting and sign a petition following the decision by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to approve the withdrawal of services between London Waterloo and the South West from mid- December.
The petition says: “The Department for Transport has specified that the direct trains from Bristol, Keynsham, Bath, Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge to London (Waterloo) via Salisbury cease in December (2021). We ask that they continue to run pending consultation and effective ongoing provision.”
The announcement came in a South Western Railway (SWR) timetable consultation (there was no consultation with rail user groups or local authorities).
It said: “The route between Salisbury and Bristol Temple Meads has historically been served by both SWR and Great Western Railway, with SWR running five of the average 25 daily services in the May 2019 timetable.
“Following a separate review with the Department for Transport, SWR will withdraw its current three daily services from December 2021 as duplicating services between the two operators does not provide good value for the taxpayer. Great Western Railway will continue to meet demand on the line and services will connect into London bound trains at Salisbury, Bath and Westbury.”
But campaigners say the route which connects to much of the South East and provides much-needed extra capacity is well used. It provides the only through trains from London to Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon, Oldfield Park and Keynsham and the only through services from Bristol and Bath to South London.
They say the announcement in the timetable consultation hides the complete removal of through trains from London to such towns as Trowbridge (population over 40,000) and Bradford-on-Avon (population over 10,000) and the reduction to a single daily service to Warminster (population around 20,000, remaining train at 07:50 from London) and Keynsham (over 15,000, remaining train at 06:20 from London).
The campaigners also say that the statement that GWR will continue to meet demand is incorrect: “They are failing to meet demand at present, even while we still have some depressed ridership due to coronavirus, with short trains that don’t have the capacity needed, and with far too frequent cancellations or trains terminating at Westbury, rather than running their complete routes.”
The campaigners say the statement that services will “connect” at Salisbury is incorrect too: “Changing there will involve a wait of 50 minutes in one direction and 59 minutes in the other direction – a very different thing to the 10 minutes or so which makes for a proper connection.”
They say that although Bristol Temple Meads, Bath Spa and Westbury have other trains to London, they go to Paddington Station which is inconvenient for many people headed for the south of London, especially those with heavy luggage or disabilities.
The public meeting is on Wednesday 20th October at 7pm is being staged at the Bethesda Baptist Church in Trowbridge and will also be on Zoom. Find out more at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=25522
Public transport campaigner David Redgewell today called for the West of England Mayor Dan Norris to discuss the service cuts with the Secretary of State.
Meanwhile South Western Railway says that because of COVID disrupting driver training, from tomorrow they will no longer be running Saturday services between Bristol and Salisbury, and the stopping service from Salisbury to London Waterloo will terminate at Basingstoke.