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Oxford-Bristol rail link wins backing
Calls to resurrect a direct train service between Oxford and Bristol are gaining support as the future of the Great Western franchise is debated.
The suggestion, floated by a West Country MP, has been backed by an Oxfordshire railway users’ group.
A direct service between the two cities, via Swindon, existed for about five years, but was stopped in 2003, according to Chris Wright from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Rail Action Committee. Mr Wright said: “In a debate in Parliament, Duncan Hames, the MP for Chippenham, suggested that an Oxford to Bristol service should be reintroduced as part of the franchise.
“He also went on to say it could be part of the East West Rail project from Milton Keynes to Oxford on which we have been campaigning for for 25 years.”
He added: “We think reinstating the service to Bristol would make a logical extension to that service. We would be delighted to see it.”
At present, the journey time between Bristol and Oxford is about one hour and 40 minutes, with a change at Didcot.
But Mr Wright said that could be cut by about 15 minutes on a direct train.
He said in addition to the time saved and convenience, the service would open up the possibility of reintroducing passenger services in and out of the Wantage Road Station in Grove, which ceased in the 1960s.
Speaking in a debate about the Great Western rail franchise at Westminster Hall on December 20, Liberal Democrat MP Mr Hames said he would welcome the reintroduction of a direct route between Oxford and Swindon.
He said: “There is a wonderful opportunity, on existing railway infrastructure, to extend the potential of such services with an Oxford to Bristol service under the Great Western franchise.”
He said linking “high-value university economies” such as Oxford and Bristol would also bring major benefits.
First Great Western was awarded a seven-year contract in 2006 to run rail services between London, the Thames Valley, the Cotswolds, the West of England and South Wales.
But it has not taken up an optional three-year extension and its initial seven-year term ends in March 2013.
The Department for Transport is now drawing up a specification for the franchise.
Passengers can submit their ideas by March 31.
For more information visit dft.gov.uk/consultations/ dft-2011-36