Benefits of Bristol to London high-speed rail link 'must go beyond just mainline'
RAIL campaigners are hoping the electrification of the Great Western Main Line will lead to other routes in the Bristol area being upgraded.
Champions of public transport reacted with glee when Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond announced journey times would be slashed and over-crowding should be eased for passengers travelling from Bristol to London from 2017.
Not only will new "Bi-mode" trains be faster, greener and bigger, Mr Hammond told the Evening Post, there would be more of them running more regularly.
The improvements will be made from 2014 on the London Paddington to Cardiff route, taking in Bristol Temple Meads, Bristol Parkway and the link between those two stations.
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But local transport groups and politicians are hoping the improvements will extend even further.
Stephen Williams, Bristol West Liberal Democrat MP, has already pressed the Transport Secretary on whether the upgrade would include two miles of track on the Severn Beach line, which takes in Redland and Clifton.
Mr Hammond said that would have to be looked at in the future.
But Transport Minister Theresa Villiers will be travelling on the line during an official visit with Mr Williams tomorrow to mark the introduction of new ticket machines and he intends to push the case then.
He said: "If the line between Temple Meads and Parkway is being electrified that should open the way for the whole branch line to be electrified and that is something I will be campaigning for vigorously."
Ian Crawford, of the Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance, said of the improvements: "This puts Bristol on the National Rail Network and removes it from its position of being almost a branch line. It reduces our reliance on fossil fuels such as diesel and is more sustainable. It also makes possible the reopening of local unused rail network and further electrification of local services."
Mr Crawford highlighted how the Welsh Assembly was working to electrify some suburban rail routes out of Cardiff.
Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways spokesman Rob Dixon said: "We certainly welcome this much-needed investment.
"We are hoping the improvements will include the number of tracks between Parkway and Temple Meads increasing from two to four, which would be great news for commuters.
"We also hope the Government will consider the electrification of the line all the way from Weston-super-Mare to Yatton, and the Severn Beach line, which would provide passengers with better, more reliable services."
Bristol City Council leader Barbara Janke said she looked forward to building links with cities like Cardiff and Swindon. She said: "Bristol is one of the UK's best placed cities to create jobs and drive economic recovery, and investment in good transport links is crucial."
Councillor Mark Bradshaw, Labour deputy leader and transport spokesman for the council, said: "The news is a boost to the regional economy and will help further enhance Bristol's offer as a place to invest. It is also a major factor in helping to reduce carbon use."