Bude is in the unfortunate position of not having a rail service, ever since Beeching’s Axe fell, but it is still good to hear that improvements to Cornish rail services are on the cards, even if I can’t quite shake off my dream of a connecting service from Bude.
Cornish Liberal Democrats have welcomed changes and improvements to rail services to, from and in the Duchy over the next two years, but local MPs are also calling for longer-term investment in local and inter-city rail services.
The Department for Transport today announced that First Great Western will continue to run both local rail services and Penzance – London Paddington trains for a further 23 months until a new, longer franchise is put in place in September 2015.
Changes including an extra two carriages on the sleeper service, improved wifi on long-distance services (hallelujah and could it also be included in the ticket price?) and the retention of through trains to London have been announced after local Lib Dem MPs campaigned for improvements.
The process for awarding a new 15 year franchise was delayed following the Department’s mishandling of the West Coast Franchise last year. Local Lib Dem MPs Dan Rogerson, Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert have urged the Government to make sure that the delay in awarding a new franchise didn’t mean that crucial upgrades and investment would also be postponed.
The MPs campaigned for the Government to protect and improve the number of through services between Penzance and London, and have called on any new franchise to focus on reliability of services, to improve passengers’ experience on trains, to introduce more competitive ticket prices, and to upgrade the sleeper service which had previously been under threat of being scrapped.
North Cornwall’s MP Dan Rogerson said: “I am pleased that ministers have listened and have decided against reducing the number of daily Penzance to London trains from 9 to 6. We will now need to make sure that when the new 15 year franchise is awarded in 2015, these 9 daily services are protected and increased and that we see a commitment to delivering other improvements we would like to see such as better carriages, competitive ticket pricing and reliability of services.I will also be pushing for the new company running services from 2015 to be obliged to improve services to and from Okehampton in order to bring rail services closer to the Bude and Launceston areas, and to re-introduce timetabled trains to and from Bodmin General station.”
The Coalition Government’s Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
“The Great Western franchise provides a vital service for thousands of passengers every day and under this deal they will see real benefits.
“For communities in Cornwall the train is a life-line bringing in business and helping secure the leisure industry the community relies upon. This agreement will provide additional sleeper carriages between London and Cornwall securing the future of a key service once under threat.
“We have also secured a commitment to deliver greater WiFi coverage to improve the experience of long distance journeys for passengers. But I am also determined that we see further improvements during the lifetime of this contract.”