For us to have a stronger economy and thriving local communities, it’s vital that, in a large rural county like Wiltshire, people can get about quickly for both work and leisure.
With the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership, we succeeded in bringing regular trains back to Melksham, with eight services each way per day between Westbury and Swindon.
I’ve also joined local campaigners to call for a new bridge and lifts at Chippenham station to provide step-free access to the platforms, and work on them is due to start this summer.
I have welcomed the Local Pinch Point Fund set up by Lib Dems in Government, which is being used to widen the A350 and remove the bottleneck around the north of Chippenham.
The current Great Western franchise ends in September 2015, and the Government has been consulting on what to include in the new one, which will run until 2020. In my response, I called on the Government to retain our recent improvements and made the case for new ones.
The Government has already committed to a new east-west rail link between Bedford and Oxford, and I argued that this could be extended to Bristol. That Oxford to Bristol service could stop at a re-opened Corsham station.
Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership has ambitious plans to develop a ‘Digital Community’ in Corsham, including establishing a Higher Education centre. A re-opened Corsham station could play a key part in making this a reality.
I also called for the new regular services at Melksham to be retained at least at their current level. Since its launch in December, the new TransWilts service is proving popular and well-used, and is already beating the target that had been set for passenger numbers next year.
At Chippenham station, there are sometimes gaps of 60 and even 90 minutes between intercity trains. I called for those gaps to be filled in the new franchise, given the level of passenger growth on the line. I also pointed out the importance of a staffed ticket office at Bradford on Avon station, and urged that it be kept open.
My next constituency surgeries will be at The Pound Arts Centre in Corsham on Friday, July 4, 2.30-4pm; at Bradford on Avon Library on Saturday, July 5, 10-11.30am; at Melksham Town Hall on Thursday, July 10, 2-3.30pm; and at my office in Avonbridge House, Chippenham on Friday, July 11, 10-11.30am.