SERUG meets MPs and the Rail Minister at the House of Commons

SERUG’s Chair Bruce Duncan and Secretary Nick Hurrell, have attended two recent meetings at the House of Commons.

The first, in late February was to present the Railfuture/SERUG Proposals for long term investment to the MP’s whose constituencies adjoin the line.  These can be seen  in full, tagged below, as 1) the Presentation and 2) the Proposal.

Sir Oliver Letwin coordinated the group of MP’s and all stations on the Salisbury to Exeter section were represented. Our proposals, which provide major passenger benefits, including better reliability, capacity and time savings, were well received. In summary, they covered SERUG’s aims as outlined elsewhere on this web site, with track doubling from Dinton into a new platform at Tisbury, and a loop between Whimple/Cranbrook as the main priorities. A further loop between Yeovil Junction and Crewkerne would also help resilience for GWR diversionary trains. Finally, we proposed improvements at Yeovil Junction to allow trains to split and join, which would improve journey opportunities and actually requires minimal investment but simply need the will from Network Rail. The need for new trains was also highlighted. We believe our proposals are realistic – given budget constraints.

Sir Oliver, after consulting with his colleagues, wrote to the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, supporting our proposals and requested funding to allow Network Rail to cost the work.

Subsequently, we were invited to meet the Rail Minister on 1st May. At that meeting we were informed that he has opened a “window” between 31May and 31 July 2018 to allow proposals for additional investment that do not currently sit within Network Rail’s future investment plans. The MP’s are keen that SERUG’s proposals form the basis of improvements to the Salisbury to Exeter section. We will now work with The West of England Strategy Group (Network Rail and South Western Railway supported) and the MP’s to produce a formal plan which also needs to have support from local Councils and LEP’s.

In summary, good progress, but there’s much work to be done! However, we are very hopeful that our continuing lobbying with stakeholder Network Rail, will finally start to see some real plans to improve services on this line.

The presentation  –   HOC-21-Feb-pres-2-final.pptx (198 downloads)

The Proposal  –   21-Feb-2018-mtg-Proposal-final.docx (218 downloads)

Concerns – The new operator and Railfuture Proposals

SERUG  expressed serious concerns about the working of the line after  reports about the new First/MTR franchise award, to start in August 2017. They wrote to the Dft (Peter Wilkinson ) expressing  views about lack of any improvement in services, capacity increases, passenger benefit and standards, continuing with the existing 25 year old trains, lack of more car parking, and a serious concern about unregulated fares and car parking charges.  The response from the Dft gave no help.

In August 2017 Railfuture and SERUG delivered a paper “Salisbury to Exeter Route Capacity Enhancements which can be read in full in the Publications section of this web site. It suggests the way forward to improve capacity, services, and passenger benefits. This is with all 8 MP’s on the route plus the Minster. Our lobbying for improvements with your help gives this paper critical importance. We will continue to improve our strategy as SWR working continues. You will see that we were successful in seeing and presenting to the MP’s – see separate item.

New Committee Members required…

We urgently require  additional Committee members:

  1. Someone to take responsibility for Communications (currently this role is divided between 2 existing committee members, but now requires a person with marketing and social media skills).
  2. Membership and program secretary
  3. A railway engineer to help with our rail/track cost analysis.

Please  email contact@serug.co.uk  if you’re interested in either of these roles…. 

Competition and Markets Authority CMA decision

Railfuture’s  (Rf) complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority has  resulted in First/MTR proposing a fares cap on the two routes between London and Exeter so that travelers are not disadvantaged by the company’s new monopoly position.
SERUG worked with Rf to make this application to ensure passengers are not disadvantaged. However the CMA decided only to consider London Waterloo and Exeter stations as the comparisons – intermediate stations are not considered – we think that a cop out and will continue to check the details as the franchise moves forward.

South Western Railway

From the 20th August 2017 First/MTR will call our line part of the South Western Railway. The Waterloo station works phase one are complete and we look forward to better running and efficient services. Andy Mellors is the Chief Executive.