POLITICIANS have launched a campaign for long-term investment in Hampshire’s railways.
Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, hosted the meeting last Thursday which was attended by Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, director of Enterprise M3 local enterprise partnership Kathy Slack, other local MPs and Tim Shoveller, chief executive of the Network Rail – South West Trains Alliance after concerns were raised over how the network will cope with growing passenger and freight numbers.
More than 37 million rail journeys were made from stations across Hampshire in 2013 – a figure which has increased by 116 per cent since 1995-96.
At the meeting, Mr Shoveller outlined the industry’s priorities for addressing a forecasted 40 per cent growth in passenger volumes on routes from London across the region, over the next 30 years, as part of the Wessex Route Study.
The study, which is out for public consultation until February 18, includes possible double decker trains, flyovers at Woking and Basingstoke train stations, and a 125mph speed limit on some sections of track.
Mrs Miller said: “Both the county council and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have voiced their support for improvements to the mainline rail connections in Basingstoke.
“I held a debate in the House of Commons last month and a local transport summit in Basing-stoke to highlight the importance of trains in helping to ease the growing road congestion problem in the borough.”
She added: “This meeting hosted by the county council has galvanised the support of the LEP and Network Rail. I look forward to working together to secure the investment needed.
“We already have one of the most overcrowded rail lines in the country. We need more, longer, faster trains right now. But, in the longer term, we also need to reduce the congestion on our roads by giving Basingstoke residents transport choices.”
County council leader Cllr Perry added: “For a long while, there's been limited investment into the network serving Hampshire, and that’s why we want a united voice to encourage the Government to recognise the economic significance of rail capacity, and support the Local Enterprise Partnership strategies to collectively make this investment happen.
“The network improvements we’ve had outlined for us are a multi-billion-pound investment, which is similar to what has already happened in other parts of the country, while this area has missed out.
“The south western railway is the only area which fully pays its way and makes a positive return to Government. This is why we need to get our act together to get the investment needed.”