Campaigners to march from Frimley to Farnborough to highlight need for 50-minute trains

David Powell, Maria Guida, Bilal Kamara, Susan Stewart and Robin Perry of the Camberley Society

Campaigners for faster train journeys between London and Camberley are stepping up their efforts to be noticed by rail operators.

Members of the Camberley Society have been lobbying Network Rail and local operator South West Trains (SWT) to introduce measures which will cut the journey time from 75 to 50 minutes.

The first stunt planned by the group will involve members illustrating its point that a town the size of Camberley is poorly served by having only a few direct trains to Waterloo each day, during the morning and evening rush-hour.

On October 24, campaigners will march a mile and a half from Frimley railway station to Farnborough Main station to "illustrate the absurdity of the current service" that this is a quicker way of getting from London to Camberley than waiting to change trains.

Society chairman David Powell said, although the group feels it is on a dead-end track with its campaign for change, after learning that the contract to run the regional rail network will be up for renewal in 2017, they have vowed to approach every company tendering for the contract to make them aware of the problem.

Mr Powell said he hoped attempts to reach a deal with SWT had built up a head of steam after senior figures from the firm attended a public meeting in Camberley in July and showed interest in setting up a ‘community railway partnership’ with the society.

However, he revealed that the society had mutually agreed with SWT to put the idea on hold after three meetings with SWT managers led to no progress other than to talk about potential improvements at Camberley railway station.

“It would be a hard sell to get people behind the idea of a partnership with talk of a few new flowerpots at the station but no prospect of an improvement in the service,” Mr Powell said. “We’ve got the credibility of the society to think about too.”

The Camberley Society’s long-term goal is the reinstatement of the decommissioned Sturt Chord rail link so trains can run directly from Camberley, Frimley and Bagshot to Wokingand on to London Waterloo in 50 minutes.

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Camberley railway station, Pembroke Broadway

The re-opening of the Sturt Chord, which closed in 1967, was highlighted in Surrey County Council’s 2013 rail review as a medium to long-term option and estimated to cost around £75 million. A business case for its viability has to be submitted by summer 2016.

In the meantime, the society has suggested that short trains running from Ascot through Camberley should go as far as Aldershot and be coupled with trains running from Farnhamto Waterloo, so passengers would not have to wait to change trains at Ash Vale.

“SWT didn’t kick out our ideas as impossible, but they said it would have to be done during a timetable change and they may not make another one before the end of their contract. That’s why we feel it’s better pursuing other avenues.

“It’s better to talk to all of the tenderers for the new contract and generate as much publicity as we can. More and more people in the rail industry are hearing about our campaign, but so far we have nothing on the ground to show for it.”

A South West Trains spokesperson, said: “We work closely with local communities and stakeholders right across our network to continue to find ways to improve the service we offer to passengers.

“Any major changes to the infrastructure would need to be considered by the Department for Transport as part of any future franchise specification.”

Mr Powell said he hoped the walking train stunt, planned for October 24 at 10.30am, would attract a large crowd of the society’s supporters.

“The more people we get, the better,” he said. “We need to organise something more substantial than a meeting, and hopefully events like this will illustrate that there is strong feeling among people in the borough about our rail service.”

To register an interest in joining the walk, email David Powell at chairman@thecamberleysociety.org.uk.

Source: GetSurrey

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