A PACKED annual general meeting of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, which has Prime Minister David Cameron as one if its vice presidents, was told the re-opening of the Stratford to Long Marston line would unlock "tremendous potential".

Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western, said the company wished to be strongly associated with the support for reopening the line which would enable connection with the Cotswold line at Honeybourne.

First Great Western, soon to be rebranded Great Western Railway, currently provides passenger services along the Cotswold line which runs between Worcester and London Paddington.

“There are many attractions to getting Stratford upon Avon into our network and with the experience in serving similar destinations such as Windsor. Re-opening the line would also unlock tremendous potential for the Cotswold line enabling local communities, including the one in and around Stratford to access direct services to and from Oxford, Reading, London Paddington and Worcester.” he said.

Mr Hopwood’s comments come as Stratford is set to see a reduction in the number of direct trains to and from London as current Train Operating Company Chiltern Railways seeks to concentrate more on developing its new Oxford to Bicester service meaning there is less room on its route for Stratford/London services.

John Ellis, chairman of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group, added that the case of re-opening the line was irresistible when considering the opening of Worcestershire Parkway. He said: “Worcestershire Parkway would enable connection with Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and services to and from Penzance. If the Stratford-Honeybourne line were re-opened it would remove the need for Stratford passengers having to travel north to Birmingham, change stations so as to get south."

The new national railway timetable started on May 18 and for Cotswold Line users this meant a change in some services with some improvements. Mr Hopwood said there would be new morning high speed trains starting from Moreton at 7.11am. This would provide two

services from Moreton enabling two arrivals at London Paddington in the peak times of 8.30am and 8.51am.

There would also be two additional direct services from Worcester to Oxford and Paddington to fill what were gaps in the previous timetable.

The train service improvements in the new May timetable are part of a wider number of actions that have been taken recently to improve services along the Cotswold Line. A new 115 space car park is due to open later this year. New ticket vending machines have

been installed at Evesham and Moreton and the new Worcestershire Parkway is due to open in May 2017.

There has also been change to the rail fares available along the Cotswold Line. Until commencement of the new timetable the availability of cheaper ‘advance’ fares was very limited along the route. This has now been addressed with some 1.6 million discounted tickets being

made available. This has meant that a concession that allowed Cotswold Line passengers travelling out of London Paddington in peak time using off peak tickets is no longer available.

Mr Hopwood reported that early analysis of ticket sales since the change showed a significant take-up of the cheaper ‘advance’ fares.