Frustration at FGW Weymouth-Bristol rail services
Dorset Echo: 26 May 2007
By Martin Lea
RAIL campaigners have blasted a train company for not meeting passenger needs.
There were high hopes when a leading transport company took over the rail franchise which includes the Weymouth to Bristol line.
It was thought a big player like First Great Western with experience of running services in the west would bring much-needed investment to the line.
But a year on, there are frustrations that a service has been withdrawn from the new summer timetable while trains are continuing to run out of Weymouth at full capacity.
Overcrowding is a bad advert for people wishing to travel to Weymouth for their holidays, the Heart of Wessex Rail Partnership said.
The partnership, which is made up of local authorities and voluntary groups, has done much to promote the line and seen passenger numbers double since 2003. The millionth passenger is expected to travel this week.
Against this background, rail partnership officer for the Heart of Wessex line Catherine Phillips said there should be an increased service and more investment.
She said: "With such outstanding growth we are very disappointed to be losing services.
"We're pleased a relief train has been reinstated on Saturdays to cope with holiday traffic.
"But we remain concerned at the loss of the Sunday morning departure to Bath and Bristol and the return journey in the afternoon which will make day trips virtually impossible."
Ms Phillips said trains were packed at Easter and volunteers would continue to monitor services. She added: "The line needs more investment and more attention. We hope no more services are lost in the winter timetable."
First Great Western operates high-speed, commuter and branch line services and regional manager Julian Crow said the company was running more services than specified in the franchise document.
He added: "Passenger numbers are growing and we are increasing capacity over and above what we're committed to, but unfortunately we've not been able to do that on Sundays.
"We understand the partnership is disappointed and we'd like to see how things can be improved in the future."
Mr Crow said the company was investing in stations and a refurbishment programme was planned for carriages.