To ensure continued investment in our local transport networks, especially rail.
Richard Benyon and MPs Nicola Blackwood and Ed Vaizey meeting with the A34 Action Group
Given our proximity to one of the busiest rail lines in the country, coupled with West Berkshire’s mix of urban and rural populations, I continue to campaign across a number of fronts to ensure effective and reliable transport links.
Electrification of the Great Western mainline is happening as residents living around Boundary Road bridge are all too well aware. The completion date is now December 2018 but with the London to Newbury line (and on to Bristol and Cardiff) a priority, we should start seeing the benefits in West Berkshire from next year. The advent of the new hybrid or ‘bi-mode’ trains which can switch seamlessly between diesel and electric power will facilitate connecting to and from Bedwyn. These are due to start operating in the summer of 2017 and a turn-back facility is planned for Bedwyn which will allow more services to begin/end their journey there rather than at Newbury.
The new rail spur linking the Great Western main line to London Heathrow Terminal 5 has now got the go ahead. Network Rail is holding public consultations in the area and, all being well, the new rail tunnel should be open for business by 2024. This will speed up journeys to our busiest international airport, and allow passengers to travel to the airport from West Berkshire by rail without going into London Paddington. It alsohas the potential to create 42,000 jobs and bring £800 million of economic activity to our region.
Amongst other services affected by the recent local government funding settlement, the cuts to rural bus services are a particularly difficult issue. I believe that there is potential to be more innovative in matching the need – which is most definitely there – with provision. I will continue to work with the Council and service providers to support options such as on-demand taxi services in order that those from the most rural areas continue to be able to get to towns and other transport links.
The concerted campaign for safety improvements on the A34 has been gaining momentum. Along with my fellow MPs, Ed Vaizey and Nicola Blackwood, I have now met with Highways England, the Roads Minister and the Chancellor, and have had positive responses from all three. The recent commitment to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway will extend improvements to the stretch of the A34 between Oxford and the M4 and in the more immediate term I am pushing for technological improvements such as better warning signs. With the support of the A34 Action Group, Thames Valley Police, West Berkshire Council, parish councils and the Local Enterprise Partnerships, I will continue to press for action.