GWE protests possible rail project cancellation

August 21, 2008

Protests over the possible cancellation of a £38m railway improvement scheme have come from a leading business organisation.

GWE Business West has spoken out over the proposed dropping of a scheme which would double the rail line from Swindon to Kemble in Gloucestershire.

The project would have provided an alternative commuter corridor and eased road congestion at a time of planned growth in the area by increasing rail capacity.

Network Rail had carried out design work on a scheme for the Stroud Valley and calculated the construction cost to be approximately £38m. They also identified a strong business case, with a benefit to cost ratio of 9:1, well above the Department for Transport threshold of only 2:1.

However, the Office of the Rail Regulator has now published its Draft Determination on the £7.1bn Network Rail business plan for 2009-14 and the programme has not included the Swindon-Kemble Line.

Nicky Alberry, joint chairman for GWE Business West, said: “It is vital for the economy of this area to see improvements in transport and access across the board. The Government is encouraging growth over the next 20 years in the number of houses built and jobs created. But there is a real danger that without an improvement in public transport, there will be massive congestion on our roads which will inconvenience travelers.”

GWE Business West has been a consistent campaigner for improved transport links that affect the region.

Ms Alberry added: “We strongly support developments which have a bearing on our local area. For example we lobbied in favour of a plan to improve the platform and signalling system at Reading railway station. Extra platform space will allow trains to pull off the main line and free up track space and modern signalling systems will enable trains to be handled more efficiently. All of that spells good news for us – more trains, greater frequency and improved reliability.”

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