THE number of passengers using rail services in Worcester has soared over recent years, new figures show.

Worcester MP Mike Foster hailed the 16.2 per cent increase in passengers starting or finishing a rail journey in Worcester between 2002/03 and 2006/07 as a sign rail services are improving across Britain.

Mr Foster also claimed services will be boosted further when Worcestershire’s rail infrastructure receives serious investment in the coming years including a possible new parkway station at Norton.

He said: “These figures show a major expansion in rail travel over the last four years. The situation will improve further, with much greater numbers using the train, when the dual-tracking of the Cotswold Line is completed and if Worcester Parkway finally gets on the way.

"Both of these projects are key to transforming rail travel in and around Worcester.

“I am supremely confident the dual track argument has won, and work will begin next year.

"It will put right the disastrous decision, supported by one of my predecessors, to dig up the track in the 1970s.

“Local people should look back to 1997 and what our train services were like then, and compare them to now.

"We have better rolling stock and carriages, more frequent trains and better overall service reflected in greater numbers using the trains.

"Over the next couple of years I hope to see a further step-change in rail improvements.”

In 2002/3 there were 1,605,491 passenger journeys starting or ending at Worcester Shrub Hill or Foregate Street stations.

By 2006/7, that figure had increased to 1,866,141 journeys - a rise of 260,650.

Data from the Office of Rail Regulation also shows the number of trains operated by First Great Western - the company which runs services between Worcester and London - arriving within 10 minutes of their scheduled time has increased from 79.6 per cent in 2004/05 to 85.9 per cent in 2007/08 - though this still remains almost the worst in the country.