Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood was amongst local leaders greeting HRH The Princess Royal at Kemble station to mark the successful redoubling of the 17 mile stretch of track between Swindon and Kemble.
The restoration of the double track line – which cost £45 million - has removed a major bottleneck for services between Gloucestershire and Swindon, Reading and London.
Martin was amongst the earliest supporters of the redoubling campaign along with then Labour MP for Stroud David Drew. He began lobbying Network Rail and raising the issue in the House of Commons in 2007 and went on to personally lobby Labour Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis and then his Conservative successor Philip Hammond. The funding was finally announced in the 2011 Budget and work completed earlier this year.
But the MP took the opportunity to lobby Network Rail and First Great Western bosses not to rest on their laurels but to back other major improvements in local rail services: “It’s great that we’re celebrating the redoubling of the Swindon to Kemble line today. It paves the way for more reliable, more regular train services from Cheltenham to Swindon, Reading and London and could even shave a quarter off the journey times as well. But now we need to look to the future.”
“First Great Western now need to make good use of this significant public investment and deliver a revised timetable with more through trains, more capacity and a decent evening service. Unfortunately their first changes to the timetable since the work was completed have been to give Cheltenham a worse service not a better one. That has to change before their franchise comes up for renewal.”
“Network Rail need to get behind the upgrade to Cheltenham Spa station so that all these improved services can arrive in a state of the art, accessible station with good facilities for continuing your journey by foot or bike, bus, coach, car or taxi. We’ve now won support from Cheltenham Borough Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the University, train operating companies, the railways minister and Travel-Watch South West. Network Rail say they support the plan but at times seem to have really dragged their feet. We need them to get behind this plan with real enthusiasm now.”