The grim reality is that by the time we get to Polling Day (in May) we will be 40% through the planned Con Dem Coalition Governments austerity programme of public sector cuts, which means that we have another 60% of cuts to follow. Austerity hits in so many people in so many different ways, yet almost unnoticed it has also changed what ‘Government’ at various levels actually offers to do for us.
The future trend is for Government at all levels to simply be there and to provide nothing or at least next to nothing for this costs the least if it can get away with it. The big society has quietly been ditched (along with the photo opps with the huskies) and despite the spin the new bottom line, particularly when you have ineffective and inert Government, is focused intense campaigning to get things done.
If we want to get something done that government won’t provide then we will have to fight for it like we have never fought before. If we want regeneration, decent facilities in our towns and communities or want to reopen an old railway station then we have to make Government act on our behalf, whether it wants to or not.
Small-scale local transport projects and well-organised local campaigns may provide the best opportunity to make a real difference when it comes to reopening or improving the services of our railway stations. There are plenty of good examples of successful campaigning groups to follow; including the Carno Station Action Group, the Severn Tunnel Action Group have campaigned to restore rail services and improvements in the passenger infrastructure, Better Trains 4 Chepstow who are campaigning amongst other things for more stopping services at Chepstow, and the campaign for a railway station at Magor.
Locally our rail network remains unconnected in so many ways, with the tantalising possibilities of small changes delivering big wins. The final stage of the rail-link from Ebbw Vale to Newport needs to be completed and railway stations at Caerleon and Magor would help to reduce road congestion and enable commuters to get to work in Cardiff, Bristol and other nearby destinations.
Such developments would provide a regular rail service to local residents and reduce the ever-increasing traffic burden from already overcrowded roads. The re-opening of Pontrilas Railway station (in south Herefordshire) for passenger traffic (and timber shipments) would also help, as would a feasibility study into developing regional rail freight services, removing heavy Lorries from local roads.
We should nudge our government to commission feasibility studies into the development of a Parkway Station at Little Mill and the possibilities of re-opening the old line from Little Mill to Usk and the development of a new railway station at Usk. We need Abergavenny and Chepstow railway stations to be real gateway stations; with integrated local bus services and the provision of more and cheaper safe secure parking. We still need better facilities at Severn Tunnel Junction and Caldicot railway stations and the provision of adequate safe secure parking facilities.