Worcestershire County Council has published their Rail Investment Strategy which documents a vision of the development of rail services as part of their Local Transport Plan 4. As to be expected the plan concentrates on an improved London service via the Cotswold Line of two trains per hour and as part of this the provision of one train per hour starting from Kidderminster. Other items include the provision of a direct train service between Kidderminster and Bristol and new direct long distance cross country services for the new Worcester Parkway, located where the Cotswold Line crosses the main Birmingham Bristol line. Longer term visions include the electrification of the Birmingham Bristol route.
The document is an ambitious aim at securing investment in Worcestershire railways. However, it is difficult to envisage in the current mood for national rail investment and recent announcements from the DfT how all this is to be achieved. A more modest bid might well secure a greater success.
The disturbing fact about the strategy is that it pays no attention to connectivity with Hereford via the existing route. In fact, the thrust at a two hourly London service from Hereford with the extension from/to Kidderminster smacks of the fact that Worcestershire has ditched any thought of London services running through to Hereford. This fits in with hints from the DfT via both the past Great Western franchise specifications and the more recent Network Rail West Midlands Network Development Plan that the Hereford line is becoming a low priority almost lost entity in the national scheme of things.
On this important point, Rail & Bus for Herefordshire has made strong representation to Worcestershire Council against the strategy as being incomplete for not including the Hereford rail route. The omission of the Hereford service as an integral rail route connecting with mid and South Wales along a corridor which figures in the wider Midlands Connect Strategy is a fundamental flaw of the Worcestershire document.
In the meantime, Herefordshire rail users and communities will need to be alerted to the potential threat to the through London train service and this is already in hand via Rail & Bus for Herefordshire.