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Severn Valley debunks false talk of ‘commuter trains to Birmingham’ (8th September 2011)

THE SEVERN Valley Railway has formally distanced itself from newspaper and magazine reports which have falsely raised the prospect of commuter trains on its line, to and from Birmingham.

Headline stories first published in one regional daily newspaper last month and copied by some specialist railway magazines, claiming that the Kidderminster - Bridgnorth steam heritage line is ‘considering’ the reintroduction of commuter services after ‘more than 40 years’, have no foundation or credibility, SVR General Manager Nick Ralls stressed earlier today.

“Commuter trains are not on our agenda and never have been” he emphasised – “and neither have we been approached with proposals for them by any of the main line train operating companies. But that doesn’t appear to have registered with some of our media friends, who seem intent upon setting a different agenda for us.
We’re very disappointed by the standard of some of the reporting we’ve seen on this issue.”

The misleading ‘commuter trains for Severn Valley Railway’ headlines have come in the wake of an announcement by the railway in August that its points connection with Network Rail at Kidderminster is to be upgraded within the next 12 months, and re-signalled to allow the free flow of passenger trains in both directions between the 16-mile steam heritage railway and the main line.  At present, the points connection only permits outgoing passenger train movements, not incoming ones.

“Whoever has translated this to mean ‘commuter trains’ has grasped the wrong end of the stick” said the Severn Valley Railway General Manager. “Our interest is entirely in the running of occasional steam and diesel-hauled charter trains – both from the SVR to destinations on the main line network, and incoming excursions onto SVR metals,  to Kidderminster, Bewdley and Bridgnorth.

“There are many reasons why commuter trains aren’t a viable option for us” he said, “not least of all that we’re governed by the standard 25mph speed restriction applicable to heritage railways which is set by Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate (HMRI). That’s hardly condusive to the commuter ‘ethos’ of getting people to work and home again in the shortest possible time.

“ As a railway whose trains and stations are still run by volunteers, we are simply not set-up to handle commuter traffic, and if our car parks were to be used by commuters, where would the families who form the core of our business park their cars?” he questioned.   “I hope we can put this ‘non-story’ to bed now” he said.

Newly-elected Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) Co. Chairman Nick Paul gave unequivocal support to the railway’s General Manager. “There is no thought in anyone's mind of running commuter trains as described in the media” he said.