I was invited by the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways (FOSBR), a campaigning group seeking to extend rail services in the West of England, to speak on behalf of the Labour Party at a Rally for Rail in Bristol last Friday, Other speakers included Bristol City Councillors, Cllr Mark Weston (Conservative), Cllr Anthony Negus (Lib Dem) and Cllr Jo Sargeant (Labour) as well as Bernard Kennedy from the train drivers union, ASLEF.
FOSBR have also invited me to make a statement in support of a new Corsham Station being included in phase 3 of the Metro West project at the first meeting of the West of England Metro Mayor’s authority on 28th June.
The newly devolved West of England mayoral authority provides a new level of local government with significant powers over transport infrastructure. Winning the new metro Mayor to supporting integrated plans for rail that would include Corsham station could be a significant step forward in increasing the likelihood of a train service being introduced.
The campaign for a new station at Corsham has been building strength for a number of years, and has cross party support from the Labour Party, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The campaign is led by Corsham Town Council, and has been supported by our MP, and Wiltshire County Council.
The Swindon and Wiltshire Strategic Economic Plan identifies that ‘re-opening the rail station at Corsham would be a significant enabler of growth, making the Town more accessible to students, staff and others as well as improving access to the MOD and other employment areas.
Wiltshire Council commissioned a report on the viability
According to the Gazette and Herald
Forecasts from this Wiltshire Council study, the Atkins report, indicate that a Corsham station could carry up to 400,000 passengers a year with an identified for journeys to and from Bath, Bristol and Wiltshire too.
The report concluded that there is a gap in rail service provision between Corsham and Bath. For example, although over 650 Corsham residents make a daily commute to Bath and North East Somerset, less than 2% of these journeys are made by rail. This contrasts with trips from Chippenham to the same area where rail captures almost a third of work trips.
On the longer journey to Bristol some Corsham residents are already using rail by heading to neighbouring stations to travel to work. However, this only accounts for 13% of work trips compared to 34% for those whose journey originates in Chippenham. Only 5% of Corsham residents working in Swindon travel by rail compared to nearly 17% of those who live in Chippenham.
Wiltshire Council identified four possible rail service options, a new service from Temple Meads to Oxford, a new service from Temple Meads to Oxford, a new service from Cardiff to Swindon, or an extension from the Metro West service from Bath Spa to Chippenham.
The extension of the Metro West service is the option supported by the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, and is building cross party support.