Richard is is now working with new South Western Railway franchisees, FirstGroup and MTR, who took over on August 20th, 2017, in his quest to improve rail services from London to Weymouth. The service suffers from fewer, slower and shorter trains due to a reduction in electrification beyond Bournemouth.
Richard met the new operators as soon as they were in place and continues to press for upgrades to both Weymouth Station and the line. In particular, Richard is backing a new route to London via Yeovil Junction and Salisbury, which could cut at leat 30 minutes off the total journey time to the capital.
The new route would require the doubling of new track near Tisbury, some longer platforms at stations along the line and improvements to Yeovil Junction.
The Local Enterprise Partnership has presented a 95-page report on the upgrade requirements to the Minister, while South Western railway is investigating upgrading Weymouth Station.
History of the campaign
ON March 27, it was announced that South West Trains has lost the rail franchise to a consortium of FirstGroup (70%) and MTR (30%).
Around 14% of all UK rail journeys are made on the current south western rail network, with 1700 trains per day serving more than 200 stations in London, Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire Surrey, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight.
Richard has long campaigned for the improvement of rail services to Weymouth, which suffer from fewer, slower and shorter trains due to a reduction in electrification beyond Bournemouth. Current plans under review include a new, fast service to London Waterloo, via Dorchester West, Yeovil Junction and Salisbury, with no other stops. South West trains believed that with some infrastructure work this plan would be feasible and Richard will waste no time in meeting with the new rail operators to ensure that they are on board with the plans.
To improve speeds from Weymouth to London via a new route would be the culmination of many years of effort. On December 15, 2015, Richard led a delegration including other local MPs, Councillors and the LEP to a meeting with the Undersecretary of State for Transport, Claire Perry. On the same afternoon he called a debate in Westminster Hall to discuss the proposals and the benefits they would bring to towns all the way up the line.
In January 2016, the Minister asked Network Rail to investigate possible costs for the plan.
Meanwhile, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Local Councils and MPs along the route all submitted proposals to the DfT's South West Franchise public consultation, which closed on February 9, 2016.
Two companies; the incumbent Stagecoach South West Ltd and FirstGroup’s First South Western Trains Ltd have been shortlisted to bid for the next South Western passenger franchise and the next franchise would start when Stagecoach’s current contract ends in June 2017.
The length of the new franchise is still to be determined.