DIRECT train services between Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon could be restored, raising hopes of a major tourism boost to the city’s economy.
The Government has said it will consider approving a reinstated link between the two stations as part of an agreement to run the Great Western franchise from 2013 to 2028.
It is hoped the move would be a major boost to city tourism.
The link was closed in 2004 when the Government opted for Chiltern Railways to run trains to the historic Warwickshire town from London Marylebone via High Wycombe and Banbury. This replaced the previous Thames Trains service along the Greater Western line from Paddington via Reading, Didcot and Oxford, a route that linked the two tourism hotspots. As a result, passengers from Oxford have to change at Banbury or Leamington Spa to get to Stratford. But a Department for Transport tender document says it will consider reviving the link “following receipt and review of suggestions” from train companies. The bidders for the franchise are current operator First Group, Stagecoach , National Express and Arriva, the parent company of both Chiltern and CrossCountry Trains.
None would comment on whether they would back the reopening of the link, as the tendering process has now begun. But First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood last year said: “I was involved in launching the former London-Oxford-Stratford service and am keen, as managing director of First Great Western, to get that service back again.” Cherwell Rail Users Group chairman Chris Bates said the move would benefit tourists who want to visit three of Britain’s most iconic destinations. He said: “I’m absolutely sure there would be more demand for it.” Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader Rodney Rose, responsible for transport, said: “Anything that helps to get people onto rail and buses at the moment has to be a good thing.”
The Oxford Mail asked Chiltern Railways if the re-opening of the Great Western franchise would compromise its service. In a statement, business development director Graham Cross said: “We see investment in the railways as a good thing for passengers and the UK economy.” The bidding process opened last week and closes on October 25. The winner will be announced in March.