AT last! Following an eight-year battle, it has been announced that direct rail services will continue to operate to Hungerford, Kintbury and Bedwyn from 2018.
The announcement represents a victory for the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group (BTPG), which was backed by Newbury MP Richard Benyon and his Commons colleague Claire Perry, MP for Devizes.
BTPG spokesman Steve Smith said the problem arose from the 2009 Department for Transport announcement that electrification would come only as far as Newbury.
This would have put Hungerford, Kintbury and Bedwyn on a diesel shuttle service to Newbury, with no direct trains to Reading and Paddington.
Mr Smith said: “At last we have excellent news for rail users.
“After work by many parties, particularly Great Western Railway (GWR) and the MPs Claire Perry (pictured, with BTPG members) and Richard Benyon, it has been agreed that our trains will be replaced with bi-modes.
“These will run on electricity between Paddington and Newbury then continue, seamlessly, using diesel to Bedwyn.”
He added: “The one thing left to be resolved is the siding at Bedwyn Station which will need to be extended to take the new, longer trains.”
GWR confirmed in a statement: “The trains are longer than the current turbo fleet and the services to and from Bedwyn will require a small extension of a siding in Bedwyn to be able to operate.
“The siding extension requires the diversion of an existing footpath and the rail company and Network Rail are seeking views from Great Bedwyn Parish Council before approaching Wiltshire Council for planning approval.”
Mr Benyon said: “I’ve been pushing for an uninterrupted service to the west of Newbury ever since the Government made the decision to electrify this line. Places like Kintbury and Hungerford will have a better service on better trains. This decision means everyone is a winner.”
Hungerford mayor Martin Crane welcomed the news and said the town council had also campaigned for the direct service.
However, he added: “My only reservation is that this will take time and money. It would have been better to improve the whole service by taking it through to Westbury rather than stopping at Bedwyn.”
GWR must now seek planning approval from Wiltshire Council for the works at Bedwyn.
Mr Smith said: "If you wish to support the need to re-route the footpath/crossing then please send a note to our parish clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Please keep any emails brief – just say what the retention of the direct services to Reading and Paddington means to you.”