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Updated27th January 2013

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Chepstow Station

Campaigning for Improved Services to Bristol (and Portsmouth).

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The Background

In December 2006 the Severn Tunnel Action Group (STAG) was formed to campaign for the restoration of services at STJ as a result of public protests when First Great Western won the contract to operate the Cardiff-Portsmouth franchise.

The service reductions arose from the fact that the contract awarded to FGW by the DfT gave FGW discretion whether or not to stop their trains at Severn Tunnel Junction. The contract also allowed FGW to reduce the size of their trains from 3 to 2 car units.

Both reductions had a severe impact upon services at Severn Tunnel Junction and the Chepstow line. The immediate effect of these reductions was felt by the commuters from STJ but the repercussions extended to Chepstow, Caldicot and Lydney because passengers from these communities have to change trains at STJ for journeys to/from Bristol and the Portsmouth line.

  • STAG with the co-operation of FGW and with the assistance of numerous supporters have been successful in getting most of the peak services restored but continues its fight to get the off-peak trains to stop in future.

  • The WAG has recently arranged to lease FGW five 150(1) or 150(2) class units. This is good news and will enable FGW to restore the trains to 3 car units as they were in 2006.

  • But FGW have still not agreed to reinstate stops at STJ through the day. It appears that FGW are oblivious to the damage they have caused to our local services.


What’s the Problem?

The hourly Cardiff-Portsmouth service has traditionally provided connections in both directions along the Chepstow line. FGW in withdrawing stops at STJ has substantially increased journey times for passengers from Lydney, Chepstow and Caldicot and neighbouring Bristol.

DfT franchise contracts rarely specify where train connections are required with other services and it is this omission that has led to the problem we now face at STJ.


The Pain

By removing STJ station stops FGW have:-

  • Made it necessary for Chepstow passengers bound for Portsmouth to change trains at Newport (10 miles further). Changing at Newport instead of STJ adds one hour each way to journeys to and from Portsmouth.

  • Increased journey times from Chepstow to Bristol from 51 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes.

  • Increased waiting time at STJ from 17 minutes to an intolerable 47 minutes on journeys from Chepstow to Bristol. STJ station has no toilets or facilities.

 The Gain

Nothing has been gained by not stopping the Cardiff-Portsmouth trains at STJ. All these trains are scheduled to run at the same time whether or not they stop.

It has been argued that not stopping at STJ makes the journey more attractive to long distance passengers. We disagree.

The FGW services to Paddington, for instance, now stop at Didcot but it is hard to believe that it has actually deterred anyone from using the service.

We challenged FGW to explain why they couldn’t reinstate the off-peak services when they had found it possible to restore them at the heavier peak times. The response that it could impact on their PPM (Passenger Performance Measure) targets because of day time freight movements was implausible.

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A Few Facts and Statistics.

Passenger statistics and surveys show that passengers at Chepstow are increasing at about 8% per annum.

The footfall surveys carried out by BT4C in 2010 reveal that Chepstow has a more even distribution of passengers throughout the day than many other stations. This is a significant fact which supports our belief that Chepstow offers excellent prospects to fulfil the TOC’s desire for more off-peak passengers. But it is obvious this can only be achieved if a better off-peak service is provided.

The proximity of Chepstow and Lydney to the popular tourist attractions of The Wye Valley AONB and The Forest of Dean National Park make this area a popular destination and present an opportunity for FGW to promote and grow its off-peak traffic.

Bristol is the nearest city to Chepstow and it is obvious that with growing populations on both sides of the Severn and the current desire to find an alternative to the car that it makes sense to maintain and improve the train services and not reduce them.

We know that regular train passengers have given up trying to journey to Bristol by train and now go by car. Others have now ceased to use your service to and from the Sussex/Hampshire coast because of the extra hour each way.

The latest Passenger survey carried out by BT4C show that the service is so bad that only 4 passengers a day are now travelling by train from Chepstow to Bristol.

Click “BT4C Passenger Survey” to see the survey results in detail.

In Conclusion.

These notes have been assembled to try and bring clarity to a confusing situation.
We hope we have made it clear that:-

  • The removal of connecting services at STJ have brought no immediate benefit to FGW’s Cardiff-Portsmouth service apart from cutting off potential passengers.

  • Removing the stops has considerably worsened services from Chepstow, Lydney, Caldicot to/from Bristol.

FGW have the contract to operate the Cardiff to Portsmouth service and the DfT have given them the freedom to decide whether or not to serve STJ.

In the short term the obvious way to reverse this decline in our services is to prevail upon FGW, the DfT, and those responsible for our transport system, to insist that FGW stop their trains at STJ during the day as well as at peak times. It need cost nothing.

The GW Franchise is to be replaced and BT4C has duly submitted its response.

Click *BT4C FGW Consultation Response 2012to see our submission.

In the long term there will be other ways that services between Chepstow and Bristol could be improved but this will be more costly than stopping the trains that currently pass by..

Click “Bristol Timetables” to see Chepstow to Bristol services.

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