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Fresh attempt to get Cotswold Line dual tracked - and secure parkway deal
A MAJOR new bid to improve Worcestershire's "terrible" railway links is kicking off - with the county council preparing a fresh attempt to get the Cotswold Line dual-tracked from Worcester to Oxford.
Politicians have hit out at poor links from the county to London, saying the current services are "an albatross around Worcestershire".
Now the Conservative leadership says it wants fresh dialogue with the Department for Transport, operators and Network Rail over dualling the route to tap into services bypassing the county.
Your Worcester News can also reveal how last year's failed bid to secure £7 million of Government cash for Worcestershire Parkway, in Norton, is being revisited.
The council is preparing a detailed report known as GRIP 4 (Governance for Railway Investment Projects) after the 2013 bid for funds was rejected because it lacked that depth.
The authority says it hopes to made "significant" progress by early 2016 on securing the land, getting planning permission and tapping into some Government funds to finally make it a reality. It followed a debate on Worcestershire's train services during a full council debate at County Hall.
A motion by Councillor Paul Tuthill calling on the council to press for "urgent" dualling of the whole of the Cotswold Line from Worcester to Oxford was backed by all parties.
Cllr Tuthill said: "This is so important for Worcestershire, so much so that I think it needs to go on our corporate 'dashboard' so it's looked at regularly and monitored by management."
Councillor Robin Lunn said: "The current situation is an albatross around Worcestershire.
"It shouldn't be just on our dashboard, it should be right at the top of the dashboard - it seems so incredibly old fashioned that this section of track is not dualled."
Journey times from Worcester to London vary from two hours 20 minutes right up to three hours or longer, and areas like Rugby and Warwick have similar services despite being further away.
People in Cardiff have better, quicker services than Worcestershire, mainly because the Cotswold line is a single track.
During the debate Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and the cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure also said Norton Parkway is back on the agenda.
"It's been raised for decades but I am quietly confident and think we're finally winning the argument for it," he said.
"There is plenty of evidence around the growth of rail travel, and plenty of confidence here that we are making our case. We want to see it happen in Worcestershire.
"We're now working up to GRIP 4, the industry standards, plan to move forward with it and over the next two years I hope to make significant progress."
Last year Network Rail and the Government teamed up to launch a £30 million fund for new stations, but the cash went to rival bids in areas like Bradford and York instead, both of whom had developed the GRIP reports, which include details like passenger forecasts, costings and building scale.