COVENTRY’S inter-city fast train services must be protected in any changes to the InterCity West Coast franchise, says a leader councillor.
The incoming cabinet member for business, councillor Jim O’Boyle, was commenting on the government Department for Transport’s consultation on how future West Coast mainline franchise services should operate – and he wants Coventry people to be heard.
Coventry’s inter-city train services to and from London and Birmingham and beyond are already under threat from HS2, the controversial new bullet train line which will rip through Warwickshire countryside in the next decade but bypass the city’s train station.
It is feared any decline in fast inter-city and other services in and out of Coventry station could further harm attempts to attract firms to the Friargate business district around the station, where so far the city council is the only confirmed tenant.
The consultation on the West Coast mainline franchise – currently operated by Virgin trains until the franchise expires in April 2018 – specifically seeks the views of the public including people who travel to and from Coventry, councils, businesses and others.
Speaking about the speculation services to Coventry could be cut to make way for speedier services to Birmingham, Coun Jim O’Boyle said: “This is a really important consultation and we will work to make sure we are heard.
“As a minimum we want to ensure that the franchise for trains between Coventry and London meets the current standard of three fast trains per hour.
“We are ambitious for Coventry and we will be making a strong case for the three fast trains to remain and for improvements to the service.
“It’s not acceptable that we could see fewer trains stopping at Coventry to speed up the connection between London and Birmingham.
“The department’s own vision says the new franchise needs to enable economic growth, support investment and build on high levels of customer satisfaction. We will be trying to hold them to this.
“One of our great strengths is how well connected we are. Our railway station is also the fastest growing station outside of London and it has a critical role to play in our work to attract new investment and create new jobs.
“We will be submitting a very detailed response to the Department for Transport and we will be very clear about the rail service we want for Coventry.
“I hope lots of local people will have their say too – the consultation is open to everyone and people who use the service will have valuable contributions to make.”
The consultation runs for 12 weeks and will help to inform and develop the franchise specification. The closing date for comments is August 2, 2016.