MINEHEAD RAIL LINK GROUP
Campaigning for a Minehead – Taunton community rail service.
PERIODIC INTERNAL UPDATE - 7 JUNE 2019
Please note that because of what has been referred to in the media as a ‘wall of silence’ at GWR and our inability to get any information from GWR regarding the item at the bottom, below, I have taken the liberty of including GWR M.D. Mark Hopwood on this mailing only, in the hope that he may read the bottom item and restore channels of communication at GWR!
THE PROPOSED NEW TAUNTON – OXFORD – NUNEATON SERVICE
Alex and I took the train to Westbury yesterday (6 June) to attend the AGM of Go Op Rail, the co-operative group working to introduce the new and innovative ‘open-access’ rail service from Taunton to Nuneaton via Westbury, Melksham, Swindon, Oxford, Leamington and Coventry. The unlikely route has actually got real potential as it passes through some key interchanges on the rail network and trains will also call at Langport station when it is eventually re-opened.
Following an interesting presentation, leader of Go-op, Alex Lawrie explained that initially it was envisaged that the new service would only run between Taunton and Swindon or Oxford due to congestion at some key junctions, but hoped that this would be overcome as improvements were made. Initially it was hoped that the service would start next June, but this was now put back to December 2020 due to procurement of rolling-stock.
Originally it was intended to run trains every two hours from Taunton, but a couple of trains would now start at Yeovil Junction due to ‘pathing’ requirements. Various forms of rolling-stock had been investigated and it would seem that initially refurbished class 158s would be used, although more modern rolling-stock was the goal and even the exciting multi-fuel D trains being developed by VivaRail were being investigated.
D trains are built on the shell of former London Underground e.m.u.s and could be powered by hydrogen, battery electrics or conventional diesels. Go-op were keen to trial these trains on the West Somerset Railway and were open to discussing the possibilities that may be available to MRLG in our ultimate goal of getting a proper train service operating on the WSR from Minehead to Taunton.
Go-op were also interested in exploring the opportunities that would be presented by the new Oxford – Bletchley – Cambridge line, construction of which is to start shortly.
STAND AT THE WSR STEAM FAYRE
Anyone wishing to help staff the stall with Railfuture at Norton Fitzwarren on the WSR on 3 & 4 August would be most welcome. If you can help for a few hours on either day, please call John Hassall on 01823 974745
THE EXPERIMENTAL TAUNTON - BISHOPS LYDEARD SHUTTLE SERVICE
As you may have seen in the press recently, everyone is becoming frustrated by what the media calls the ‘Wall of Silence’ from GWR over the new experimental shuttle service between Bishops Lydeard and Taunton. As you also probably know, we have offered GWR our total support for this service advising them of our willingness to help with publicity, marketing, leaflet and poster distribution and volunteer staffing and GWR said they valued our offer of support and would keep us up to date with developments. This has not happened. Despite emails and unanswered phone calls to GWR’s Development Manager, Matthew Barnes (and a few to other GWR key figures). MRLG still has no idea of the start date, timetable or fares – and nor it seems, has the WSR, the press, the local authorities or even the staff at Taunton Station!
Despite the service starting – according to GWR, ‘sometime in June’ , we are now into the second week in June and have been told nothing. Our and other people’s phone calls to GWR are not returned and it is rare that GWR responds to emails. This is not acceptable.
Obviously it is too late for the service to be included in any GWR publicity and if and when the trains actually start running it will probably be too late for anyone to know about it in advance! As Matthew Barnes wasn’t responding to our calls, I phoned the GWR switchboard number on a GWR letterhead and the line registered unobtainable. I phoned the GWR customer services number published in the timetable (03457 000 125) and it told me to press option 4 for customer services and the line went dead every time I called it.
Then in desperation I tried the GWR Delay Repayment Line (as it was the only one with a real human-being at the end of the line) hoping they may have the number for the Press Office or Mark Hopwood, but they had no phone numbers at all and had never even heard of GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood! I spoke to the Editor of the Free Press hoping he would have the GWR Press Office number, but he didn’t and thought that their reporter couldn’t get through to them either!
I could of course write an old fashioned postal letter to GWR, but as they rarely answer emails and it is impossible to get through by phone, the chances of their answering a postal letter are even slimmer. Maybe the only option left is for a delegation to get the train to Swindon and go to Milford House, the GWR HQ in person and see if anyone there really has a clue what’s going on!
David Latimer, Publicity Officer, Minehead Rail Link Group, 7 June 2019