By Ian Mean
Business West Gloucestershire Director
THIS is the age of the train-that was that television advertisement from the 1970s.
I believe, that 30 years later, we could be on the verge of a new dawn for the rail network.
Last Saturday, Railfuture Severnside held a campaign meeting to discuss the re-opening of the Stonehouse(Bristol Road) station which was closed post the Beeching axe.
It would be easy to dismiss this sort of rail campaign as the focus of some ageing rail anoraks steeped in the past. I believe this would be very shortsighted – especially in Stroud and the Five Valleys where train connection to Bristol is abysmal.
Our recently published Local Industrial Strategy from GFirstLEP makes it clear that the new Rail Strategy commissioned by the LEP and the county council is absolutely crucial to the county’s transport policy. One of the key aims of this Rail Investment Strategy-to be completed by the end of this year at a cost of £65 000-is to prioritise investment on the local rail network to increase passenger patronage which is very low in Gloucestershire.
The Local Industrial Strategy for Gloucestershire has a big,clear message: Listen to our young people far more because they are our future. I believe our young people like to use public transport. I think there is a great opportunity for them to take the train if we can provide a better, more integrated rail service for Gloucestershire. What is going to be required is a direct rail connection from Stonehouse and Stroud to Bristol—the place where young people want to be. It is no use at all to try and develop Stroud as the UK’s first carbon neutral town unless the Five Valleys has a council supported, sustainable transport policy. That policy must have train travel at its heart.
This will ease congestion on the M5 and particularly help our young people to discover a new age of the train.