An adjournment debate called by David Drew MP (Stroud) took place in Parliament today following a letter to the Chairman of the South West RDA, Sir Harry Studholme, from Jim Knight MP which stated that if the South West Regional Development Agency can produce “an agreed, realistic and deliverable five year programme” by November 16 then the funds that had previously been allocated to the Westbury bypass, which has been refused planning permission, could be re-allocated to fully fund the Swindon to Kemble scheme.
During the proceedings it was made it clear that the £20m that the South West RDA have already allocated for this scheme – plus the money previously allocated to the Westbury bypass – would be lost if the redoubling were not to be given the green light before the end of the financial year – the strongest indication yet the work will go ahead.
Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown stated during the debate that the South West RDA would be churlish to not proceed because the Government Minister confirmed they would lose this money. He also highlighted the importance of the line as a diversionary route, particularly in light of the planned electrification of the Great Western main line.
The significance of the routes diversionary role for trains in and out of Wales was highlighted by the attendance of Elfyn Llwyd MP from Plaid Cymru who have contributed to the feasibility study.
Speaking after the debate Mr Clifton-Brown said:
“Today was a most constructive debate, after years of campaigning on this issue, that demonstrated the level of support for the redoubling and I hope that the South West RDA have taken full notice”
“The window of opportunity is here before us. With similar work due to be completed on the North Cotswolds line next year the resources are in place ready to start work on the Swindon to Kemble Line”
“If it cannot be agreed now the next funding round begins in 2014, and given the scale of railway work planned in the coming years it would be highly unlikely that Swindon to Kemble would be included for the foreseeable future”
However, the full costs of the programme will not be finalised by Network Rail until December and Mr Clifton-Brown is wary of complacency as were the costs to be over the £40m available then further work will be needed to bridge the funding gap.
Source: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP Cotswolds