Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol East
A busy week for Kerry, campaiging to improve Bristol’s troubled transport system.
Firstly, she went with fellow Bristol MP, Doug Naysmith on December 6th to meet the Rail Minister, Tom Harris. They raised a number of concerns, including the reduction in seats and some services under the new First Great Western timetable, the future of the Severn Beach line, and the possibility of running a passenger service on the Portishead line. The Minister promised to get his officials to investigate the capacity issue, and said that FGW were committed under the terms of their franchise agreement to increasing capacity in the Bristol area. He clearly recognised that Bristol is a city with particular transport problems, and that local rail services have a major part to play in the city’s regeneration. He commented that stability is important; people need to know that they can rely on a transport system before they make decisions about jobs, homes, schools, etc. Companies also need the same security. If Bristol’s rail services are constantly chopped and changed, this will discourage businesses from investing in the city.
On the Friday, after a number of radio interviews which demonstrated the level of public interest in the future of their railway service, Kerry took part in a demonstration at Temple Meads station, organised by the RMT union and supported by the South West TUC, Transport 2000 and local groups such as Friends of Surburban Bristol Railways, which is campaigning to save the Severn Beach Line. The group marched to the Department of Transport’s Bristol headquarters, where some of them – including Kerry – met with officials to discuss the future of Bristol’s rail services.
It is clear that the campaign is already having some effect – on Wednesday FGW were committed to reducing the number of trains running in and out of Bristol to 51; by Friday that number had increased to 60. They have also resurrected the Severn Tunnel Junction stops, which was another issue raised at the meeting with the Rail Minister. It is also clear that Bristol City Council has failed to show leadership on this issue, as many other councils have been far more vocal in lobbying for their own area’s interests. In her speech outside the DfT’s Bristol offices, Kerry told the crowd that the campaign would continue until the people of Bristol have the decent public transport system they need and deserve.