Transport Minister steps into row over axing of stopping train through Shropshire
Transport Minister Grant Shapps stepped into the row over the axing of a stopping train through Shropshire before the announcement of a general election.
He said he believes the timetable change breaches the minimum service requirements of the rail franchise for Wales and the Borders.
Transport for Wales has announced that it is taking out the morning train that gets into Shrewsbury from Hereford at 9.25am then goes onto Chester, out of service in December to make way for an express Cardiff to Holyhead locomotive.
The Shrewsbury to Chester Rail Users Association is campaigning against the change as the new train wont stop a stations such as Craven Arms, Church Stretton, Gobowen, Chirk and Ruabon.
It contacted the North Shropshire MP, Owen Paterson, who wrote to the Mr Shapps expressing his concern.
Mr Shapps replied saying that, as a rail passenger himself, he understood the association's concerns over how the change would affect the local communities.
In a letter to Mr Paterson he said: "The management of TfWRS is a matter for Transport for Wales which has now confirmed that these changes constitute a reduction in the number of services beneath those set out in the operator's Train Service Requirement."
He says the requirement was an important part of the devolution agreement between the department and TfW and said he wanted discussions over whether the changes were avoidable, how any inconvenience to passengers could be mitigated and the implications for the devolution agreement.
The news has been welcomed by the rail users association.
Steve Boulding the secretary said: "This is a very significant development. The rail company appears to have recognised that this means it is falling short of its franchise agreement."
"We can only hope that the 9.25am train does stay in the timetable now but there may not be time for change."
Mr Boulding said that association members had been carrying out surveys of passenger on the trains and on station platforms.
"We have more than 150 passengers who say they will be affected by this change.
"One woman who travels from Newtown to work in Wrexham, changing at Shrewsbury, was in tears as she said it would mean she would have to leave home an hour early every day."