On Friday 12 February, Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed efforts to secure long-term rail improvements in the North Cotswolds at a conference designed to unite business leaders, local authorities and LEPs.
The conference was organised by Great Western Railway (GWR) and hosted by Lord Richard Faulkner, who is local to Worcestershire, in order to build a case for more local services and improved long distance services to London and Heathrow. Over 120 delegates from the business community, local authorities and LEPs in Worcestershire and Oxfordshire attended, including Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce.
Delegates had the opportunity to hear from a great line up of speakers including Mark Hopwood, CEO of GWR, Simon Geraghty, Leader of Worcestershire County Council and Prime Minister David Cameron. Attendees also participated in workshops to show GWR the importance of improved railway services to their business or local area.
At the event, Mark Hopwood, CEO of GWR laid out his vision for the North Cotswolds Line:
Two trains per hour between Worcester and London
Journey time between Worcester City and London to be less than 2 hours
One train per hour from Great Malvern to London
Faster services to and from Hereford
Improved performance and reliability
Sufficient station facilities, car parking and access improvements to meet the demand
A better railway would benefit the local and regional economy, and commuters and leisure travellers alike. Rail is a major driver behind future development in the two counties and an improved service would boost economic activity and create and retain jobs. Improvements to the two counties rail network would also help unlock the potential of local businesses who either already export, or alternatively, want to export for the first time by bringing international and regional markets within easy reach.
Speaking after the event David Cameron said:
“It was real step forward to bring together local authorities, LEPs and businesses from along the North Cotswold Line today to kick-start discussions on how they would benefit from improved rail.”
“I hope that this event has given the rallying cry to join together with a shared vision and as a single voice for the North Cotswold's Line. Let’s keep up this momentum and build on it – ask your friends, family and everyone in your network to get involved and let’s come up with the strongest business case in the country. The challenge has been set!”
Sophia Haywood, Policy & PR Executive, Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, commented:
“It was great to see such a vision for the future of rail in the North Cotswolds and what this means for both Herefordshire and Worcestershire. There are lots of great developments in the pipeline for the two counties such as the new Worcestershire Parkway station and the potential of more rail improvements including faster and more regular services in the future.”