The campaign spearheaded by Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to secure the redoubling of the Swindon to Kemble Railway line since the Office of the Rail Regulator chose not to include the scheme in their funding priorities for 2009-2014 appears to have been ended as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Following a statement in Parliament today by the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP setting out the Governments position with regards to investment in Highways and Local Transport Schemes, Mr Clifton-Brown spoke personally to both the Secretary of State and the Railways Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers who indicated that there was not sufficient funding for the work to go ahead at this stage.
Mr Clifton-Brown led a delegation of Gloucestershire’s MPs to meet with Theresa Villiers on the 27 July this year during which the MP was able to the highlight the economic significance of the railway line to the region, and how an improved section of track would offer diversionary routes for trains to a number of different regions, provide a reduced journey time between London and the South West, enable the repair of the aged railway tracks and the fact the work is essential in enabling the full benefits of the Intercity Express Programme to be realised. Furthermore, given that similar work is taking place on the North Cotswolds line all the resources will be in place for the work.
It had been indicated by the previous Government that Mr Clifton-Browns campaigning had secured £45m of regional funding allowance and with the cost of the scheme estimated to be £52.4m, there was a shortfall of £4.8m, after the costs of the feasibility study, for which the MP had gained the funding from the Department for Transport, had been accounted for. Unfortunately, the new Railways Minister in the meeting with Mr Clifton-Brown indicated that she was concerned that this money was actually not available and this appears to now have been confirmed.
Following Mr Clifton-Browns discussion with the Railways Minister, the MP has secured an urgent meeting to gain clarity on exactly what has happened to the money that had been promised for the scheme.
Speaking today, Mr Clifton-Brown said “It seems quite clear that the Labour Government gave false hope to everyone by suggesting that £45m of funding was available that simply didn’t exist – a fact that has been confirmed by the new Government going through the books as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review”
“After years of campaigning I know what a bitter disappointment this news will be for the large number of supporters and users of this line. The case for the redoubling is clear, a fact that five Government Rail Ministers have confirmed to me. Sadly the simple fact is the Government ran out of money under the last administration – it now seems we will have to wait at least 5 years before the option for funding for the scheme will emerge again”
“However, I will keep campaigning to ensure that this issue remains high on the Department for Transports agenda and I will use my meeting with the Railways Minister to work out how best to take this forward”
Source: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP (The Cotswolds)