Shropshire trains overcrowded and irregular, say rail group
Trains are overcrowded not regular enough, a newly-formed rail-users alliance has said.
Five rail-users groups in south Shropshire and north Herefordshire have joined forces to call for improvements on the line which runs from Shrewsbury to Hereford, which is part of the main rail route between South Wales and the north.
The newly formed Marches Rail Users Alliance says the service has been a victim of its own success with the number of users increasing - but not the number of carriages.
The alliance, between groups in Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Ludlow, Leominster and Hereford, has been formed to lobby for improvements to a service they say is too irregular and often doesn't have enough seats, with passengers forced to stand for journeys lasting over half an hour.
The campaigners intend to put their case to main operators Arriva Trains Wales as well as both local and national authorities.
Professor Leslie Lumsdon, chairman of the alliance, said it represented a population of 200,000 people living within travel distance of six stations, including Shrewsbury.
He said: "Patronage has increased significantly thanks to early improvements by Arriva Trains Wales, but the service provided has not kept up with this growth.
"We contend that the vast majority of trains need to comprise three cars and that additional capacity is required to meet the heavier passenger flows associated with major events."
He said in a recent survey 94 per cent of users said having a seat was important.
"This is not a short commute-type line, most passengers will be on the train for more than 30 minutes," he said.
"We have noticed severe overcrowding in recent years, and it's not just when there's a football match on in Shrewsbury, or a rugby match in Cardiff.
"All of the groups have taken this up with Arriva Trains Wales.
"We're paying our fares, passengers are increasing, shouldn't we be getting more capacity?"
He said the alliance was also pushing for the service to be a more regular hourly one.
"At present there are all sorts of strange irregularities," he said.
"There is a considerable imbalance at certain times of the day, for examples, a gap from Church Stretton to Shrewsbury between 3.04pm and 4.55pm and another between 9.38am and 11.38am southbound from Craven Arms to Hereford."
He said other issues for the alliance involved the stations themselves, and connecting services.
"In Ludlow there is no proper pavement and a very cramped bus stop. In Leominster there is no car park. We just want to make sure the immediate environment around stations is safe, secure and attractive, so we are talking to local authorities and councils as well.
"Given the continued annual fare rises, we deserve better.
"It is important for passengers to make their views known to the train operating company and others responsible for delivering our rail service.
"These views can be fed through to the companies interested in bidding for the Wales and Borders franchise in 2018," he added.
Arriva Trains Wales was not able to comment.
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