The Association of Train Operating Companies report which was published today has identified (in England) some 14 lines and 40 new stations that could be developed (or redeveloped) to serve at least one million extra rail passengers. This report should be welcomed because it is the first positive thought from the railway industry towards reversing some of the cuts brought in by Dr Beeching (at the behest of the Conservative Government) in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
While this report only applies to England – the National Assembly Government, which has had the power to do stuff with the railways since The Transport (Wales) Act 2006 – gained Royal Assent in February 2006. This Act gives powers to plan and co-ordinate an integrated transport system for Wales to the National Assembly for Wales.
So the National Assembly should also actively consider what can be done in Wales to make life easier for rail travelers and to develop the rail network. The highly successful re-opening of the Ebbw Vale line in Gwent (soon to hopefully be reconnected to Newport) has proved that the public is more than willing to make use of revived rail services for the morning and evening commute to work and at other times of the day.
In south east Monmouthshire, the railway stations at Severn Tunnel and Chepstow Railway have been long neglected, they need to viewed as real assets to their communities and the years of slow neglect must become a thing of the past. Almost anywhere else in Europe and in much of the UK, these rail way stations would be viewed transport hubs which would inter-connect more fully with local bus services, regional rail services and provide links to enable rail travelers to access intercity services and beyond.
The quiet on-going neglect must stop and anyone who has been half frozen at either station while waiting for a train on dark midwinter mornings would agree that there is a need to provide better station facilities which would make a real and significant difference to half frozen and soaked rail passengers who use these stations who hail from east Newport, south east Monmouthshire, the lower Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean.
Plaid in Monmouth constituency has called for:
- More stopping services at Severn Tunnel Junction and Chepstow Railway Stations during peak and non-peak hours.
- The provision of station toilets.
- More safe and secure parking facilities at the stations.
- Better more thought out integration of Local bus services with train arrivals.
- The provision of disabled access to the station platforms.
- The construction of extended waiting rooms for passengers.
The Plaid driven One Wales Government, working with Monmouthshire County Council and Network Rail should work to develop safe and secure car parking, which should be combined with the integration of local bus services with train arrivals. There are still some pretty horrendous gaps in provided services, more trains need to stop at both Severn Tunnel and Chepstow; there is nothing quite so frustrating as standing on a platform watching a passenger train slow down to pass through the station without stopping or even stopping in the station – especially when you the passenger cannot get onto it.
The actual rail service aside, facilities are pretty basic, there is a real need for toilet facilities and extended waiting rooms for passengers at both stations, not to mention something must be done as a matter of urgency to provide decent access for elderly and disabled travelers, who have to make use of footbridges without lifts to access some of the platforms. If we are really serious about our rail services then let’s fix what we can fix and make a real investment in facilities and better services which will help to bring in more rail passengers.