South West rail services are victim of gross inequality
You quote (September 14) writer Simon Calder's singling out of rail company First Great Western as being responsible for the poor service to the South West.
I am sorry that the travel expert seems to be unaware that FGW has had little chance to control recent events which have left their mark on services: for example the £1bn remodelling of the junctions and station at Reading through which all our trains have had to pass for the last two years; and the DfT's muddle on franchising, both on our route and nationally, which has in effect led to a two-year hiatus in reaching important investment, governance and management decisions on the future nature of Westcountry services.
In addition, it should be noted that none of the much-trumpeted £9 billion earmarked for rail investment in the next eight years is to be spent west of Bristol. In 2020, electric trains will still be 75 miles away even from Exeter, let alone running on the further 120 miles of Brunel's line to the far west.
The DfT's plans for our spine line thus envisage that the flagship service from London to Plymouth and Penzance in 2025 will still be provided by the very same High Speed Trains as those introduced in 1976, albeit now on slower schedules than those of 50 years ago. These trains will by then have completed about 25 million miles each in service, much of it at speeds of over 80 mph. This 'make do and mend' approach makes a stark contrast with the £50 billion now allotted for HS2.
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Although HS2 is billed as 'of benefit to the regions', It is difficult to see how it can do this for an area over 170 miles away from it at its nearest point.
A very pertinent and professional review of the region's transport desert was published through Devon County Council at the turn of the year, One of its main conclusions was the need for more investment, but it seems to have had less impact than it should.What seems to have escaped everybody is the present gross inequity in funding for service provision comparable to that regarded as normal elsewhere. This will become ever more pronounced with each passing year as the new investment goes elsewhere, further degrading what is already rapidly becoming a museum railway to the point where it fails to attract sufficient passenger numbers to make any business case for new investment. This is not the fault of FGW, the train operating company.
Perhaps we should not be criticising FGW, but rather asking the Department for Transport why we are to be fobbed off with the oldest rolling stock in the country for the foreseeable future, and asking ourselves how all the reviews, political and economic decisions of recent years have been allowed to produce so little benefit to our neck of the woods. Can the South West be persuaded to speak with a voice loud enough to ensure that this wrong is redressed and not allowed to happen again?