SWINDON’S top politicians yesterday called on the Government to electrify the Great Western rail line and slash journey times to London.
Rod Bluh, leader of Swindon Borough Council, launched a campaign in Parliament in support of the electrification of the Great Western main line, alongside Swindon’s MPs Conservative Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson.
They say the Tory-Lib Dem coalition must honour the previous Labour government’s plans, announced last year, to electrify the line between Swansea and London Paddington, installing overhead electric pylons and replacing existing diesel- powered trains with electrically-powered high speed locomotives.
Doing so would reduce existing travel times between Swindon and London by about 20 minutes – enabling the journey to be completed in 40 to 45 minutes, rather than an hour.
As well as making life easier for commuters, supporters say the £1.1bn scheme would bring new investment into the town as companies and public sector organisations considering relocating are more likely to pick places with quicker transport links to London.
The electrification scheme is currently being considered as part of a value-for-money review of UK rail projects, which will feed into the Government’s comprehensive spending review next week.
Coun Bluh, attending the campaign launch with the leaders of Cardiff and Bristol councils, argued the north of England often did better out of Government funding settlements than than the south, and said it was time Swindon got its fair share.
He said: “This is the part of the UK that is usually overlooked.
“The north always gets attention but Swindon is a powerhouse for the economy, and Bristol and Cardiff share the M4 and the railway. This project is desperately important for the whole region.”
Mr Buckland, MP for South Swindon, said: “Times are tough with capital public spending but it’s up to us to lobby Government and keep the project on the road. I will keep banging on the Government’s door until I’m blue in the face.”
Mr Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, said: “It is a real priority to work together to deliver this much needed improvement and it will drive our future economic success.”
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