Well done on securing a visit from the rail minister to see Ledbury’s rail problems first hand; thanks for your efforts. Some points I should like made to Mr Hammond include:
Disabled and pushchair access for the north platform is impossible. I understand passengers are advised that the only safe (and legal) route is to take a train to Hereford, before swapping to a north-bound service returning via Ledbury an hour later. (Full fare payable). Clearly this is indefensible.
Waiting facilities. Despite the provision of waiting shelters, seating provision and waiting space is insufficient at busy times meaning passengers have to endure the elements, sometimes for substantial periods when delays occur, which are not infrequent.
Doubling of track must be a priority to reduce delays and allow more frequent services, particularly at peak times. This is particularly important given the projected population increases in Hereford and Ledbury over the next few years, as well as securing essential inward investment into the county to provide jobs.
Rolling stock. Having enjoyed the comfortable (if crowded) Turbostar services up to Birmingham and back for a number of years, we are now dismayed that London Midland have now deployed a number of the clapped out Class 150 units, supposedly pensioned off from the Snow Hill line last year, onto our Hereford service. While LMT claim the units have been upgraded to provide a ‘comfortable passenger experience’, I can assure you that they are frankly horrible to travel in. With five seats abreast, poor sound insulation, terrible ventilation/air conditioning and a harsh, noisy ride, the 30 year old Class 150s are wholly unsuitable for a medium distance 1.5 hour service between Birmingham and Hereford. It seems LMT have cannibalised our Turbostars for use on the Chase Valley line up to Rugeley (which by the way is being electrified right now). Please could you find out why LMT managers have downgraded our service in favour of another area, especially as our passenger numbers continue to grow?
Services to and from London. I probably don’t need to say how frustrating it is that there are no through trains to Hereford during the afternoon, all terminating at Malvern and necessitating a lengthy weight for a connection onwards. One train at least mid afternoon to Hereford should be reinstated.
Connections at Birmingham New Street. In the old days you could take a train right through from Herefordshire to Nottingham. When the franchises were changed, this convenient service came to an end, but the real iniquity is that the timetable managers managed to schedule the Derby-Nottingham onward service to leave a few minutes before the Hereford train arrived at New Street. This is just a prime example of the lack of joined up thinking when it comes to rail travel throughout our region.
OK it’s inconvenient and frustrating at an individual level but these kind of inconveniences accumulate to succeed in putting a break on our economic prospects here in the County. Rather than treating us an afterthought - planners should be prioritising the outlying areas such as ours for investment in infrastructure and careful consideration in delivery in order to stimulate economic growth and promote individual well-being. It makes me smart with annoyance when I travel down the line and see the marvellous upgrades that the Cotswold stations have received, and onwards into London where money is apparently no object, while here in Ledbury we have received precisely nothing over the years.
I am very happy to put these points politely to the Minister when he comes to visit, should you think that might be worthwhile.