Bidders for the Greater Western rail franchise have been told they need to provide an integrated new station for Worcester.
Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership has written to all four interested parties – FirstGroup, National Express, Arriva and Stagecoach, plus the Department for Transport – “demanding” they take action.
It insists that a proposed “Worcestershire Parkway” station at Norton, east of Worcester, should be a commitment from whoever takes over the network which connects London, the west of England, south Wales and the Midlands.
In his letter Worcestershire LEP executive chairman Peter Pawsey expressed the organisation’s strong support for the inclusion of a new “Worcestershire Parkway Station” and other improvements to the Greater Western rail franchise services.
He said the call – endorsed in a consultation response from Worcestershire County Council, and backed by district authorities, MPs, the Chamber of Commerce and others – reflected “the needs of businesses, rail users and stakeholders in the county, and is vital for economic growth and reducing carbon emissions”.
Mr Pawsey went on: “A key and strongly supported element of the response is the need for a new ‘Worcestershire Parkway’ station at the intersection between the Worcester-London (Cotswold Line) and Bristol-Birmingham lines at Norton, east of Worcester. Such a facility will significantly improve rail access to and from Worcestershire, enable interchange between services and reduce journey times to regional and national destinations.
“In particular, the improvement of rail access to Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, London and beyond, together with more direct and faster planned links to Heathrow, to Birmingham Airport and to the proposed HS2 line, will have a massive positive effect on business, the economy and especially on potential inward investment to the county.”
He added: “In addition there is clear evidence that a significant number of car journeys to Birmingham in particular, currently using the M5 motorway, would be transferred to rail if convenient fast services and ample parking were to be provided at a ‘Worcestershire Parkway’ station situated as proposed. Similar effects will be experienced for journeys to other key destinations.
“It is our view that the proposed station together with other improvements to the Greater Western rail franchise services will therefore greatly assist economic development in Worcestershire and also play a major part in reducing longer distance car journeys.”
Mr Pawsey said such an investment should also lead to increased profits for the winning train operator.
And he challenged the bidders “to demonstrate your appreciation of the massive opportunities open to you and how you will address the needs of Worcestershire residents and businesses in order to help support our economic growth agenda”.
The LEP has been campaigning in support of the County Council for improved rail links as a major strand of its business plan.