I know how important our local rail services are to people and businesses across the Constituency and I am working hard to ensure that our services are protected for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed working as the Rail Minister since I took the job last summer and I am very proud of this Government's record on our railways. Rail travel has been put at the heart of the Conservatives' long term economic plan to secure our country's future.
Earlier this year the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP announced a new four year contract for train services in the region to be provided by First Great Western. As the Rail Minister I was not allowed to be involved in decisions about this Direct Award because I was also a local MP, representing a Constituency in the franchise area. Proprietary rules are strict to ensure any conflict of interests are avoided and the decisions for this award were therefore made by the Secretary of State. This did not stop me from lobbying vigorously as your MP for improvements in our services, and we secured some excellent results in this award, including around 3 million additional seats annually across the franchise area by 2018, 4,000 more morning peak seats into London every day by December 2018 and funding of over £30 million to improve stations and car parks throughout the region.
In June, the Secretary of State made a statement to the House of Commons about a series of changes to Network Rail, including a new Chairman. As part of the statement he also announced that the electrification of the Great Western Mainline was to be the priority electrification programme. Similar projects on the Midland Main Line and Transpennine Line between Manchester and Leeds have been paused in order to concentrate on the Great Western Line. The new Chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy will be reporting shortly about how best to complete all the upgrade projects.
For Pewsey travellers, there are no planned changes to the current service pattern and from 2018 we are likely to see more services, and new 'bi-modal' brand new Hitachi trains will replace the 40 year old High Speed Trains, offering many more seats and a much better service. I am delighted that I had the pleasure to formally open the new footbridge at Pewsey station. The modern footbridge, has improved lighting making it safer for passengers in winter and at night, and has replaced the old bridge which was installed in 1969, having previously been in use at Cookham Station. I am delighted too, that the number of bus services meeting trains at Pewsey has also been improved thanks to the work of the Pewsey-Devizes bus group and Wiltshire Council – a welcome boost for rail users, parents of teenagers, and many other people who rely on our bus services across the area
However, passengers that use Bedwyn station are likely to see greater changes as the electrification is planned to stop at Newbury, a decision that was made much earlier in the planning process. Before I was a Minister I asked the Department for Transport to have another look at the business case for extending the electrification project to Bedwyn as I believe it makes operational sense and I am continuing to work on this.
To fill any service gap, there is an alternative possible solution which is to use battery powered trains, the newest train technology in the country. These units are allow fast services to run both on electrified and non-electrified track - meaning that our through services to and from London could be preserved. Plans for a trial of this technology to serve the Bedwyn route are already underway and I have asked for the trials and negotiations to be accelerated as quickly as possible. www.theengineer.co.uk/./battery-powe./1019711.article