By Gary Smee 02/08 Updated: 09/08 13:36
GOVERNMENT proposals for the future of rail services between the Vale and London have been described as lacking in vision by Evesham's MP Peter Luff.
The Mid-Worcestershire MP's comments came after the Department of Transport issued details of its minimum expectations of the service which is being offered to train companies for a new 15-year franchise.
But Mr Luff said he was disappointed the document, called the invitation to tender (ITT), included no service improvements for trains to London from Evesham and Pershore and no mention of the need for a Worcestershire Parkway station.
The specification includes a minimum of 16 direct trains per weekday from London to Worcester, eight to Malvern and four to Hereford.
But Mr Luff said it fell short of the hourly service he and other MPs wanted.
"I was looking for three things from this document – more trains, a minimum hourly service and a commitment to the Parkway station. Instead all we are promised is the status quo," he said.
"I know the service is now much more reliable after the significant doubling of the line, and the reintroduction of the superior Adelante trains onto the route have made journeys more comfortable. These are big steps forward.
"But the massive investment in the redoubling will be largely wasted if we don’t also get more trains between Worcester, Pershore, Evesham, Honeybourne and Oxford and London.
"The really worrying thing is that the new franchise will run for fifteen years, so this could be our last chance for a long time to get the service improvements we need.
"I will be asking the Government to look again at the specifications they have set out and challenging the four bidders for the franchise to tell me how they will better the minimum services set out in the tender document."
A spokesman from the Department of Transport said they expected bidders to develop ways to meet future demand for passenger services and support the economic growth of areas which depend on the Great Western railway.
And Pershore's MP Harriett Baldwin said she would be contacting all of the bidding companies to make sure they knew what was expected.
"If there was a regular, reliable, hourly service from the area to London, it would attract passengers that are currently being lost to Birmingham International, Warwick Parkway, Newport and Swindon," she added.
"The Cotswold Line has been a Cinderella service since the 1970s and it is now turning the corner and improving again.
"With this 15 year franchise it is vital that we are ambitious and demanding and generate some real competition for the service. I will write to each of the bid teams to make this point."
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