STRATFORD-UPON-AVON commuters received a huge boost last week amid news that the number of direct trains between Stratford and London is set to more than double from May.
The announcement by Chiltern Railways is something rail campaigners have long been calling for and could provide a major boost for Stratford’s economy.
From May the number of direct trains running to London will jump from three to six (Monday to Friday), while the number going in the other direction will also double from three to six.
On Saturday there are currently no direct trains from London to Stratford, but from May that will rocket to four, while heading in the other direction the number will increase from one solitary direct service to five.
Sunday will also see a big increase with the number of direct Stratford to London trains going from two to five, while five will also run from London to Stratford, a jump from the single service currently provided.
Eleni Jordan, commercial director of Chiltern Railways said: “Chiltern Railways is delighted to be making these improvements to our Stratford-upon-Avon service having listened to feedback from customers.
“These additional services mean that the number of direct services between Stratford and London each week will more than double. Direct journeys will provide a more seamless and easier journey for both Stratford residents and visitors.
“We will be releasing more information between now and May and feel confident that the people of Stratford will support the introduction of these new trains to ensure we are able to continue to run these services.”
Fraser Pithie, secretary of the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group (SLPG), said: “We welcome this announcement of direct trains to London, although they won’t be the fastest, they will hopefully ensure passengers travelling from Stratford will get a seat, at the moment with the change at Leamington, that is not always the case. The greater frequency of services is a very positive thing too and all credit should go to Chiltern Railways for listening to the representations made by SLPG. Their actions in introducing these additional services speaks louder than any words.”
The future of railway services looks bright in Stratford, especially in light of news that a significant project to modernise the town’s station is in the pipeline.
At least £750,000 is expected to be invested into the site and improvements will include the rebuilding of the booking hall, an improved passenger seating area and retail facilities.
One million journeys are made to and from Stratford station every year and it is hoped the improvement project will create a modern gateway to the town.
However a lack of apparent progress on these improvements has irked some.
While supportive of the project, Mr Pithie expressed concerns over the provision of café facilities during the construction period.
He said: “The positive approach taken by Chiltern contrasts markedly with the shambolic approach being taken by Network Rail regarding the improvements to Stratford Railway Station.
“SLPG are very concerned about the need to ensure refreshment facilities at the station throughout the disruption. We understand that the whole station building will be taken out of use to facilitate refurbishment and improvement, if this is so we need urgent reassurance about the provision of the cafe in temporary accommodation while the works are ongoing.
“Passengers travelling to London, and these are likely to increase from May with planned additional direct train services from and to Stratford, do not have any refreshment facilities on those train services.
“With a journey time of just under two hours the need for passengers to obtain refreshments before boarding or immediately after alighting such services is therefore imperative.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail said that because a final schedule for the works had not yet been completed, it was not in a position to provide further information about such details.
They added that once scheduling is complete further information would be passed on to the relevant parties.