Gazette & Herald Column: New trains giving tangible proof of rail improvements

Recess means lots of travelling to my Ministerial desk by train and recent journeys have reminded me of the improvements we will shortly see to our local services, as I promised when I was first elected as your MP back in 2010. Back then there was concern over the survival of our local train links, especially the direct services from Bedwyn to London once electrification to Newbury was implemented. After many years of work with local groups and with my neighbouring MP Richard Benyon, I have now been able to protect current services and get more investment at both stations, like the new footbridge at Pewsey and new shelter and car parking at Bedwyn, and from next year we will see the roll-out of brand-new bi-modal Intercity Express trains serving both Pewsey and Bedwyn with more seats, better performance and many more services from London to Pewsey. These trains can run under electric power as far as Newbury and then by diesel to points beyond with no loss of speed or performance, and, excitingly, this week one of the new trains called at Bedwyn during official tests. While passengers can’t board them at this stage it was tangible proof that the benefits are on their way, and later this year I am arranging with Great Western Railways to have one of the new trains make a special visit to both stations. This will be a jamboree day for local train lovers like me– although I am often reminded at events like this that the first railway fatality in British history was the MP for Liverpool, William Huskisson, who was so excited at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 that he jumped out of his carriage behind a Stephenson’s Rocket, wandered on to the track and was mown down by another locomotive. Excitement must clearly be accompanied by a sober reflection on health and safety these days!

As important as transport infrastructure is, the digital backbone of the country and I have also been campaigning locally to accelerate the roll-out of Superfast Broadband across the Constituency. Record government investment means that 85% of local premises can now access Superfast speeds, and that will rise to almost 90% by year end. But there is more to do, which is why I helped shape the Digital Economy Act in the last Parliament, including a legal Universal Service Commitment (USC) of 10mbps by 2020 for everyone. This week the Government published its Consultation on how to achieve the aim here: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/broadband-universal-service-obligation-consultation-on-design, and I expect progress to accelerate when we return in September.