On the planes and trains in North Somerset UPDATE
By Prue_Reid | Friday, August 31, 2012, 14:19
A West Country MP has said regional airports should take the strain from Heathrow rather than building a controversial third runway.
Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston says the Conservation Party should keep its election promise of not building the third runway at Heathrow and expand Bristol, Exeter and Newquay airports instead.
But House of Commons energy and climate change committee chairman Tim Yeo provoke a spat with Prime Minister David Cameron by asking whether he was 'man or mouse' saying by expanding Heathrow it would be a fillip for the flagging economy.
But Dr Wollaston called for greater use of RAF Northolt – which is six miles away from Heathrow – and regional airports for short-haul flights.
Bristol, Exeter and Newquay airports have capacity to grow, and campaigners are attempting to get Plymouth airport re-opened.
Meanwhile catching a train from a station between Weston-super-Mare and Bristol direct to Paddington, London, could be a thing of the past once electrification is introduced.
Passengers from Bedminster, Parsons Streets, Nailsea and Backwell, Yatton, Worle and Weston Milton will all have to change in Bristol from 2017.
Although It is hoped some Saturday trains in the summer will run direct from London to the West Country.
South West Transport Network spokesman David Redgwell blames district councils for not making a strong enough case for electricfication of the branch line.
He said: "Everyone will have to change at Brstiol Temple Mead or Parkway.
"There will also be very limited services intercity on route to Plymouth and Penzance.
"The government were going to electrify to Weston-super-Mare but the business case wasn't made firmly enough by the four local councils which make up the West of England Partnership.
"We are missing out on the greatest rail invested in Greater Bristol and Somerset since the 1930s."
North Somerset Council and the West of England Partnership has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Paul Clark, to raise concerns at the plan which could electric trains running between Bristol and the capital by 2017.
The project, costing £1 billion, would speed up the journey between Bristol and London by 12 minutes.
It will also help the Government meet environmental targets because diesel-powered High Speed Trains and Cross Country Voyager trains would be replaced with a new fleet of electric ones.
The line from London Paddington to Cardiff will be electrified, taking in Bristol Parkway station, along with the track through Bath to Bristol Temple Meads. Lines connecting Bristol Temple Meads with Bristol Parkway are also expected to be electrified.
However, smaller stations outside of Bristol, such as Nailsea, Yatton and Weston-super-Mare, will continue to be served by diesel trains.
Local commuters will have to use 140-seater trains instead of the 600-seater express trains in peak times.
North Somerset Council executive member for highways and transport Elfan Ap Rees, in North Somerset, said: "As a major tourist resort and with a resident population of close to 100,000, through links to London are vital.
"Expecting passengers to change trains at Bristol Temple Meads will reduce links between the town and major cities and discourage rail travel.
"These plans will also have a major impact on local commuters travelling out of Weston to Bath and other stations beyond Bristol Temple Meads and could discourage new businesses from setting up in the town."
The letter to the Secretary of State for Transport highlights a recent Passenger Focus Great Western Franchise research survey (July 2012) which revealed that 40 per cent of rail passengers were unlikely to make the journey if they had to change trains.
The project, which is the biggest since the line designed by Brunel was built will be done in stages and cost £800,000 for every mile on the 118-mile stretch between Bristol and the capital.
It will involve installing hundreds of miles of overhead electric cables as well as alterations to tunnels, bridges and stations on the route
The Great Western route is currently only electrified for a short distance from Paddington to Heathrow airport.
Of the entire network only 40 per cent is electrified. That includes most of the South East and the line from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Electric trains produce 20 per cent to 30 per cent fewer carbon emissions than diesels.
They have a lower failure rate than their diesel equivalents and they are also lighter and quieter than diesel trains.
Direct services between Weston-super-Mare and London on the First Great
Western train line have been secured, reports the BBC.
There were concerns the government's rail re-franchise plans would have
meant reduced services to the town.
New Rail Minister Simon Burns has told his officials to secure two direct
daily services in each direction from companies bidding for the franchise.
The town's Conservative MP John Penrose said: "This is really good
news for the people of Weston."
He added: "It means we're connected between Weston and London but also
because if they time these services right - these big inter-city trains at the
morning rush hour - it reduces overcrowding and makes a much better travelling
experience for commuters between Weston and Bristol as well."
Rail Minister Simon Burns said: "I know how important improved rail
connections are between London and Weston-super-Mare.
"I look forward to seeing the proposals from each of the bidders
during the coming months."
The announcement is in addition to the planned five direct services each
way across summer weekends already set out in the tender documents.
The new operator will be announced in March 2013 and the 15-year Great
Western franchise will run from July 2013 to July 2028.