Weston-super-Mare to London rail re-franchise concerns

Great Western rail re-franchise plans could have a "major impact" on a North Somerset town, a council has warned.

Council bosses have written to the government against plans which could see a direct through-service between Weston-super-Mare and London lost.

They say the town would be cut off by the new electrified rail network.

The Department for Transport said it acknowledged North Somerset Council's concerns and would respond shortly.

In a letter, the council outlined a survey suggesting 40% fewer passengers would make the journey if they had to change trains in Bristol.

'Discourage businesses'

Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, executive member for highways and transport in North Somerset, said: "As a major tourist resort and with a resident population of close to 100,000, through links to London are vital.

"Expecting passengers to change trains at Bristol Temple Meads will reduce links between the town and major cities and discourage rail travel.

"These plans will also have a major impact on local commuters travelling out of Weston to Bath and other stations beyond Bristol Temple Meads and could discourage new businesses from setting up in the town."

The new 15-year Great Western franchise, which will run from July 2013 to July 2028, has largely been welcomed by the authority and its West of England partners.

It will see the introduction of new express trains, additional capacity, smart card ticketing and passenger satisfaction targets.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport, said: "The invitation to tender for the Great Western franchise specifies that the future operator must provide, at a minimum, an equivalent number of connections between Weston-super-Mare and Bristol Temple Meads and that through-services to London are operated during summer weekends.

"Bidders are required to demonstrate how they plan to meet current and future demand for rail services."

Bids for the franchise are expected to be received later this year and the new operator will be announced in March 2013.

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