Duncan has welcomed the news that the new Great Western franchise secures the future of the TransWilts rail service.
The Government announced that it has agreed a deal with First Great Western for them to continue running passenger rail services on the Great Western franchise until April 2019. The deal includes a commitment from First to continue with the TransWilts service of eight trains each way per day between Westbury and Swindon – stopping at Trowbridge, Melksham and Chippenham – that began in December 2013.
First plans to double capacity on the service by adding an extra carriage from May 2017, and equip the trains with free Wi-Fi.
Duncan had been urging the Government to keep the service at least at its current level in the new franchise, including in a letter to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond in June and in his response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on the specification for the new franchise.
“I had the great pleasure of joining commuters to celebrate the launch of the new service in 2013. It’s something I’d worked on with the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership for a number of years, and I’ve been delighted to see so many local people benefiting from it.
“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to persuade the Government and First to keep the new regular services we worked so hard to secure, and increase capacity so that many more people will be able to use them for years to come.”
Graham Ellis of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership said:
“I’m delighted that the new franchise secures the future of the TransWilts service.
“Without political support across the board and considerable help from our current Member of Parliament, I doubt that Melksham would have a usable train service today, let alone having one mapped out into the future.”
In their press release, First Great Western said:
“TransWilts services, boosted by remarkable growth since new services were introduced in 2013 by First Great Western with the support of Wiltshire Council, will continue to run. Single carriage trains will be doubled to two carriages from May 2017. The trains will be equipped with free Wi-Fi.”
Before the launch of the new service in December 2013, Duncan worked with the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership, the rail industry and Wiltshire Council to secure a £4.25 million grant from the Government to fund the service, a commitment to run the service from First Great Western and approval from Network Rail. He wrote to Ministers in support of the effort, met with them about it and, on several occasions, asked Transport Ministers to support it in the chamber of the House of Commons. He also met with officials from Network Rail and First Great Western to overcome obstacles to successfully delivering the service.