2014 saw the redoubling of the railway line between Swindon and Kemble after a long and ever growing public campaign spearheaded by Railfuture Severnside. This web feature was just part of the struggle to restore a vital part of our nation’s transport infrastructure. The picture above shows a 2008 view of the end of the double line south of Kemble station.
An open letter to the Office of the Rail Regulator. If you would like to communicate your own views the it would be good to do so before 31 August 2008.
|Please reply to:Mr N. Bray,Severnside Branch Secretary,68 Gurney Avenue,Tuffley,GLOUCESTERGL4 0HN.1 August 2008.
Office of the Rail Regulator
1 Kemble Street
Dear Sir or Madam,
Kemble- Swindon redoubling
Railfuture Severnside believes that double track should be reinstated on the section of route between Kemble and Swindon, for the following reasons.
1. Strategic importance of the route for Southern England and South Wales.
The Stroud Valley line forms part of the only realistic diversionary route for trains between South Wales and London whenever the Severn Tunnel is closed, whether for planned Engineering work or unforeseen contingencies. The same diversion via Kemble is employed if the routes between Swindon and the Severn Tunnel are themselves blocked, for example in 2006 when the junction at Wootton Bassett was remodelled. The Kemble route is also used to divert Cross Country services via Swindon and Bath when their booked route via Bristol Parkway is obstructed.
Although planned Engineering work in the Severn Tunnel provides for a special timetable in which South Wales- Paddington expresses call additionally at Gloucester, Stonehouse, Stroud and Kemble in place of the normal services at those stations, this naturally results in a curtailment of direct trains between Cheltenham and Paddington. Some of the latter could be accommodated were it not for the constriction of capacity arising from the 12 ½ mile single track section between Kemble and Swindon Loco Yard.
When there is unplanned disruption in the Severn Tunnel, or on the main line between it and Swindon, the addition of London- South Wales trains to the regular service along the Stroud Valley is likely to cause significant delays, at Standish Junction and at either end of the single track section. Equally, the combination of diversions (planned or unplanned) with a major incident on the main line between Paddington and Swindon can produce long delays. For instance on 28 August 2006 there was a suicide at Cholsey, between Reading and Didcot. Although this incident was 30 miles east of Swindon, it occurred on a day when Paddington- South Wales services were routed via Gloucester. The temporary closure of all four, and later two, tracks at Cholsey produced a queue of trains which waited variously at Reading, Didcot, Swindon and Kemble because only one train could traverse the Swindon- Kemble section.
The main line between London and South Wales via Swindon and Bristol Parkway is a prime candidate for electrification. If this happens, there will be regular diversions via Kemble during the electrification work, so it would make sense to complete the missing section of double track beforehand.
2. Population growth in the line’s catchment area.
Substantial housing development is planned in Gloucestershire, principally in or near the urban areas of Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud. If there is not to be more congestion on local roads, enhanced local rail services are needed. The rail stations at Gloucester and Stroud are centrally sited and while the one at Cheltenham is not, it does have frequent bus links to the town centre. There is a strong case for more frequent train services, at least during the peak hours, between Cheltenham, Gloucester and Swindon but the limitations of the single track section are a deterrent. Another reason to redouble the track between Kemble and Swindon is the proposed Swindon North station, which would be located on the present single line and needs an attractive level of service to justify the cost of construction.
3. Doubling makes sense in the context of an expanded railway system.
The singling of Kemble- Swindon was understandable in 1968, when B.R. was under pressure to demonstrate cost savings on routes it wished to keep open. Reduction in track capacity reflected Government expectations that passenger and freight traffic on the railways would gradually decline. The past ten years have seen a reversal of this trend, with rail freight increasing and passenger miles growing to record levels. In this context an increase in network capacity is now essential if the system is not to become congested. In particular, main lines such as Swindon- Gloucester need additional signalling sections to permit more frequent trains. Currently the 29 miles of route between Standish Junction and Swindon has just four signalling sections, viz. Standish Junction- St. Mary’s Level Crossing; St. Mary’s Crossing- Kemble; Kemble – Swindon Loco Yard; and Swindon Loco Yard- Swindon Junction. Naturally this limits the number of trains which can be accommodated at any one time and arguably inflates the schedules of both regular and diverted services.
The engineers’ siding at Kemble on the up side, in the former Cirencester bay platform, should be retained if the line to Swindon is doubled. Railfuture believes that a larger rail system, involving selective reopening of lines, is essential in the long term if road traffic is to be reduced. The formation of the branch is substantially intact and could reopen when circumstances permit. The lead to this siding would then become the junction points for a reopened railway linking Cirencester with the national rail network.