Britain’s chance to create energy from the world’s first Tidal Lagoon

It may not hit the headlines when the media are focused on whether the Kremlin has compromising material on the new US President, but yesterday was I think the moment Britain got serious about creating a new global industry.

We were early movers in offshore wind energy, and we have an opportunity now to be the first mover in generating energy from tidal lagoons. There are tidal barrages in eg France and Russia, but no tidal lagoon – where a large wall is built around a bay, and an under water turbine captures energy from the twice daily movements of the tide – anywhere in the world. Yet.

Some time ago I opened the Gloucester headquarters of Tidal Lagoon Power plc (TLP), which proposes a series of tidal lagoons to harness the strength of the Severn Estuary tides and generate up to 10% of Britain’s total electricity needs. The technology is not totally new, but has never been deployed in this way before: and the size of even the first and smallest lagoon in Swansea Bay involves over eleven miles of wall. And although TLP has funding for the c£1.3 billion project, ultimately the taxpayer would subsidise the cost through the price paid by the National Grid.

In the wake of controversy about the size of the subsidy to be paid for nuclear energy from the new Hinkley Point stations, the government was cautious about the cost and last year commissioned a Review of Tidal Energy. Those who thought the aim was delay, prevarication and kicking the issue into the long grass will have been disappointed by Charles Hendry’s report, whose launch I hosted (as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Marine Energy & Tidal Lagoons) in Parliament yesterday.

Charles is a former colleague and Energy Minister, and although he started a sceptic hisreport  is absolutely clear about the scale of the opportunity and its importance to the UK. He described our tides as the greatest untapped source of energy in the country, and highlighted the Severn Estuary and the Solway Firth in particular. He sees a golden opportunity for Britain to be bold and seize first mover advantage in a new global industry, and in his 40 recommendations urges the government to reach agreement on a pathfinder by TLP at Swansea Bay as soon as possible. Why did he reach that conclusion?

The Hendry Review looked at four key questions – the security of supply, decarbonisation, affordability and economic gain (jobs). On all four it found strongly in favour of tidal lagoons. Their energy is domestically sourced and predictable, very low carbon (and supported by Greenpeace). The estimated UK content is 65%, with 50% likely to be sourced from Wales – not least manufacturing (including steel) and construction, but with huge tourism potential which Charles Hendry thought had been much underestimated, and compared to the Eden Project in Cornwall. And then there is the cost.

The report estimates that the cost of the Swansea pathfinder would be cheaper (through the Contract for Difference or CfD structure) than the nuclear subsidy, and over the lifetime of a tidal lagoon considerably cheaper per megawatt hour than offshore wind: less than 50p per household per year over the the first 60 years (after which the subsidy would end).

The Hendry Report makes 40 recommendations, many to government: including the creation of a Tidal Power Authority and establishing competitive tenders for future lagoons. The government will now study these in detail. So what happens next?

Last autumn I wrote a letter to the Chancellor urging him to look seriously at the Review when it came out because the 111 MPs who signed my letter all believed there were significant opportunities for Britain. As the Hendry Review has confirmed our instincts I will now write again, urging a detailed and formal response before the Budget.

In my view it would simply not be credible for the government to ignore or reject the general thrust of the recommendations. The Review and its author are too authoritative. It will have to look closely particularly at the structure and pricing issues, but the risk of the pathfinder at Swansea is really with TLP plc – they won’t receive anything until the electricity is in the National Grid, probably in 2022. And the support they have in Swansea, Wales and much more widely for this project is almost unprecedented.

I am also sure that an opportunity to buy tidal bonds with an income stream as steady as the energy itself would be well subscribed by both pension funds and retail investors alike. I want to see Britain investing in and owning our own infrastructure and this is our chance to show that we can and will do so. So much of our infrastructure from Camelot to most of Heathrow Airport is not owned by us – but it doesn’t need to be that way.

Which brings us back to Gloucester. What could be more exciting than to have a business based in our city construct the first of what I hope will be many tidal lagoons, all over the world. Our city has thrived on manufacturing innovation – whether Booth’s first vacuum cleaner, to the first flight of Whittle’s jet engine, Dowty’s landing gear and aviation instruments and the nuclear industry whose operations are all still run from Barnwood. Creating the world’s first tidal lagoon is in a great tradition – and I will do all I can to keep encouraging this bold step forward for Britain.

Let me know your thoughts and reactions on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk

Best regards

Successful Campaigns and Issues

On this page you can find examples of my successful campaigns since becoming the MP for Gloucester.

You can also find out more about my ongoing campaigns in this section:

PRESS RELEASE: MP campaigns for two local pharmacies

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has urged NHS England to include Matson Pharmacy and Rowlands Pharmacy (Alvin Street) in the review that protects pharmacies in poorer areas from funding changes.

Richard wrote to the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (GCCG), NHS England and the Minister for Pharmacies David Mowatt MP to encourage them to support the inclusion of the two Gloucester pharmacies in the Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS).

Richard Graham MP said, “the government changes rightly focus on access for all and value for money. This is important when money is tight but we should also protect those pharmacies that are in high need areas. These pharmacies are important to Matson and Kingsholm residents so I wrote to NHS England to support their application.”

Cllr Jennie Watkins, City Council Cabinet Member for Communities, said, “Matson is a great community and place to live, however it is also in the top 3% most deprived areas in the country and Kingsholm in the top 1.5% in England for health needs. After speaking with pharmacists in Matson, they told me how busy they are and how much their services are needed locally. It is important that this is recognised by the Access Scheme.”

Dr Andy Seymour, Clinical Chair of the GCCG, wrote in response to the MP’s letter, “community pharmacies…deliver an integral part of primary care healthcare provision….We would like to add our support for any pharmacy within Gloucestershire which requests a review of eligibility for the Pharmacy Access Scheme.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The Minister and NHS England have acknowledged Richard’s letters and his points. NHS England aim to complete a review within six weeks of receiving a request from the pharmacy.

The initial list of Pharmacies that qualified for the PhAS were published in October, when a review was announced to consider turned down pharmacies where there may be a high level of deprivation. Matson Pharmacy have already submitted their application to the PhAS and Rowlands Pharmacy expect to submit their application shortly.

Based on the government Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) statistics from 2015, Matson ranked among the top 3% most deprived Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England (902 out of 32,844 LSOAs).

In terms of health deprivation and disability deprivation indices, the area around Rowlands Pharmacy (Kingsholm) ranked 487 out of 32,844 LSOAs, placing it in the top 1.5% of LSOAs in England for health needs.

END

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP welcomes huge step forward for Tidal Lagoons from Hendry Review

Richard with Charles Hendry

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Marine Energy and Tidal Lagoons and Gloucester MP Richard Graham said that the Hendry Review of Tidal Lagoons gave the clearest possible recommendation for the government to move fast and develop this new global industry.

Richard said, “Charles Hendry said he had started a sceptic and ended a huge enthusiast for the opportunities in this sector. On the core issues of security of supply, decarbonisation, affordability and economic gain (jobs above all) his Review found strongly in favour of the UK being the world’s first mover of Tidal Lagoons – and he urged the government to get negotiations for a Swansea pathfinder moving as soon as possible, with an aim of seeing electricity generated from the Swansea Tidal Lagoon in 2022.”

The Hendry Review noted the huge public support for Tidal Lagoons, the importance of UK manufacturing, supply chains and tourism, and made over 30 recommendations, including the creation of new delivery body (Tidal Power Authority).

“This report gives the government the opportunity to move forward on domestically sourced, very low carbon generation from our greatest untapped source of energy – our tides. I will be inviting members of our All Party Group to write a further letter to the Chancellor giving our support for the recommendations and urging him to make a positive response before the Budget,” said Richard

Mark Shorrock, the Chief Executive of Tidal Lagoon Power said, “the Hendry Review has set the final piece of the jigsaw in place and we look forward to working with Ministers and Officials to bring this new industry to life. We really appreciate the work done by Richard and APPG members in putting tidal lagoons at the centre of Parliamentary debate.”

Charles Hendry said, “it is clear that tidal lagoons at scale could deliver low carbon power in a way that is very competitive with other low carbon sources. We are blessed with some of the best resources in the world, which puts us in a unique position to be world leaders. The costs of a pathfinder project would be about 30p per household per year over the first 30 years.”

Changing the law on stalking: a Gloucestershire and national success

You don’t get many chances to change the law of the land: many MPs never do so. I’ve been lucky – today’s Policing and Crime Bill, all being well, will be the second time that I’ve been able to play a part in doing so.

Both times I’ve been driven to action by something that happened in Gloucester, by trying to create something good out of something bad.

The first was a constituent whose death was caused by a very drunk, uninsured and disqualified driver, who received a risible sentence because the law didn’t allow for more. The government agreed to increase the maximum sentence in such cases. This time there’s a similar outcome but the journey has been more complex and much less predictable.

In May 2015 I read in The Citizen the comments of our Judge Jamie Tabor, who said in sentencing a stalker, Raymond Knight, that if he could have sentenced him for longer then he would. Judges don’t usually like increasing sentences, and Knight’s crime was only recently introduced – Theresa May as Home Secretary had rightly criminalised stalking in the last Parliament. So I decided to look closer. Little did I know what I was getting into.

Dr Eleanor Aston, a Gloucester GP who lived in Cheltenham had been stalked for 8 years. Raymond Knight had stalked her relentlessly at work, at home and at her daughter’s nursery group. He cut off the gas and slashed a water pipe at her home: he left messages on her telephone, car and in the surgery – and was suspected, but not proven, of burning down half of Dr Aston’s house.

Her life was cruelly damaged: she suffered from PTSD and had to give up being a GP. The whole family was in a nightmare that wouldn’t go away. No wonder Judge Tabor wished he could lock Raymond Knight up for longer.

So I decided to do something with my neighbour and her (Cheltenham) MP, Alex Chalk, a barrister. I suggested we aim to change the law and get more flexibility on sentencing. Judge and victim were supportive: and so we met Ministers in London.

Then Lord Chancellor/Justice Secretary Michael Gove encouraged us to do much more research into stalking: one case rarely made for good law. We went away and with the great help of our researchers talked to victims, research bodies, anti-stalking charities, and academic and police experts. Alex’s legal knowledge was crucial.

I was particularly moved by hearing the experience of Gloucester hairdresser Katie Price, who had also been badly stalked and later left our city to find peace elsewhere. Her daughter wrote a moving letter about the impact of stalking on the whole family.

Our report showed the size of the issue: one in five women are stalked in their lifetime, and one in ten men, and stalking often leads to violence.

So this wasn’t just about Dr Aston, but a much larger number of victims. In fact when we launched our report to the media, many journalists and MPs had experiences to share too. We recommended a doubling of the maximum prison sentence from five to ten years.

We discussed our report with then Sentencing Minister Dominic Raab and his officials and he joined us for its formal launch in London. There was talk of a Sentencing Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

I asked Prime Minister David Cameron for his support in PMQs. We had a Gloucestershire launch of the report, with the University of Glos and Nick Gazzard. And we created a petition, supported by nearly 30 MPs. Meanwhile Dr Eleanor Aston, supported by charities like Paladin, starred in a BBC documentary on the issue. Momentum was building.

Then the PM resigned after the Referendum and all the Justice Ministers were changed: back to square one.

Bismarck once said that the making of laws is like the making of sausages – you don’t want to know what goes into them. And so, after much discussion and many more meetings, Alex launched a 10 Minute Bill.

It was bound to fail unless supported by government, which was understandably cautious about increasing sentences and prisoners. But the Bill gave our cause more attention and so did the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders by Home Secretary Amber Rudd before Christmas. And immediately afterwards Gloucestershire based Baroness Jan Royall succeeded in an amendment in the Lords to the Policing and Crime Bill.

This helped focus the government’s mind on the case for an amendment. They have accepted our report’s recommendation and agreed to implement it – adding a doubling of religiously or racially aggravated harassment (from seven to fourteen years).

The new law will also pave the way for more remedial work as investment in specialist mental health training for prison officers increases to assess and treat these offenders.

The Minister will propose this amendment later today and I imagine it will sail through.

This is a wonderful New Year’s present for those who’ve been stalked, for campaigners, for women in general – and for Gloucestershire, which has led every step of the way.

It means that Judges will have the flexibility that Judge Tabor sought: that victims will, as Dr Aston has said, be able to sleep more easily when the worst stalkers are sentenced; and the stalkers themselves understand on the one hand the seriousness of the crime and on the other receive more help in resolving what is a severe obsession and mental health issue.

Of course this is not going to stop stalking. But it shows victims and Judges are heard, that MPs and ultimately the government listens and that laws can be changed – so that sentences better reflect the damage that a particular crime can inflict on innocent victims, most of whom (in this instance) are women. Ultimately, Justice is only as good as the laws we adapt, and how these are implemented.

It’s felt like a long and winding road, and I’m glad neither Alex nor I have kept time sheets, but changing the law within 18 months is in fact unusually fast.

Along the way I’ve learnt more about the value of legal research and much more about stalking: the known and unknown victims and the several charities; and the processes and bypaths of getting legislation changed.

There was one other unusual aspect of this campaign – Cheltenham and Gloucester working so well together. Neighbours and mostly friendly rivals, our City and Borough haven’t always had the same book open, let alone singing the same hymn. Well that’s changed. And although Alex and I won’t always agree about everything, Gloucestershire is the better for a much closer relationship between the Cheltenham and Gloucester MPs.

I want to finish this e-news about changing the law by coming back to where it started – the Judge and the victim in Gloucester Crown Court.

Thank you to Ellie Aston for inspiring us, being strong and having faith: to other victims for opening your hearts and sharing your stories: to the stalking charities like the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the Network for Surviving Stalking, Protection Against Stalking and Paladin, and to the Hollie Gazzard Trust, the Police and the University of Gloucestershire, which just happens to be a leader in research on stalking.

This part of a long journey for Justice is now close to over, but there’s always lots more to be done on this and other good causes.

Do let me know what you think about this at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards

Winter – what do you see?

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I’m looking out of the window in a pale winter light, brightening a few remaining leaves on trees outside, modest Christmas leftovers.

Beside me, on my iPhone, are dozens of angry, frightened or frustrated messages – terrorists, Aleppo, treatment of Christians in Pakistan, beggars in our city centre, queues at Junction 12 on the M5, lack of broadband at home, numbers of staff in our prisons, health benefits or transport issues. There’s rarely a shortage of things that need to be improved.

But there is another way of looking at life. I’ve just re-read a poem its author, Jenny Lakin, read beside me recently at a dementia poetry group in Quedgeley Library. The poem describes the thoughts of a young daughter and her mother (the author) as they walk home from school. Today is a good moment for this poem:


Winter – what do you see?

I see grey, heavy clouds in dark dismal skies
She sees dragons chasing giants with big goggly eyes;
I see wet, endless pavements all dull and the same
She sees puddles to splash in, play hopscotch and games;
I see traffic crawling slowly, noisy and fumy
She waves at buses and bin lorries and anything zoomy;
I see bare, dead trees just waiting for Spring
She sees funny, knobbly branches and piles of leaves to fling;
I see anonymous people, heads down, trudging, harassed
She sees a bright bobble hat, a yellow umbrella, smiles going past;
I just want to go home, I’m cold, tired and snappy
She’s on an adventure, she’s endlessly happy.


It is the most lovely poem, isn’t it? And it’s hard to finish without a smile and a feeling that perhaps the world isn’t all awful after all. Does life have to stop being an adventure?

I will remember Jenny’s poem this long, mild winter through. Despite everything, there is a beautiful world out there. It just depends on how you look at things.

I hope you all have a very Happy New Year.

Best regards

Richard

What’s on this Christmas 2016

The Winner of my Christmas Card competition was Kinga Chabowska (Year 6, Widden Primary School)

The Winner of my Christmas Card competition was Kinga Chabowska (Year 6, Widden Primary School)

Here’s a quick guide to some of the best things this Christmas in Gloucester, and information on rubbish collection and health services. I hope readers all get some time off to enjoy some of these events and activities!

Open Air Ice Rink and Christmas Market
until 2 Jan | Gloucester Quays 
The Market closes on Christmas Eve, but the ice rink remains until the 2nd of January. So take to the ice at Gloucester Quays this Christmas.

Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre
Opening hours and ticket prices vary | Robinswood Hill | 
Whether you’re learning to ski / snowboard or getting in a bit of practice before your trip away to the snow, head down to our local Ski Centre. For more information call 501438.

Treasure Seekers Gift Shop Christmas Event
until 22 Dec | Treasure Seekers Shop, Westgate Street | Free 
Enjoy a number of late night shopping events: (1st Dec) Art Exhibition, (8th Dec) Cavern taster night, and (15th and 22nd Dec) live Christmas music with free mince pies.

Christmas Classics Film: It’s a Wonderful Life (U)
16 Dec 7:00pm | 17 Dec 2:00pm | 19 Dec 2:00pm and 7:00pm | Gloucester Guildhall | 
This year marks the 70th anniversary of this defining Christmas classic!

Christmas Panto: Cinderella
17 Dec – 20 Dec | Gloucester Guildhall | £10, £8 concessions
7:00pm, with matinees at 2:00pm on Saturday and Sunday
Gloucester’s most popular entertainment troupe return to put their spin on Cinderella.

Sail with Santa Cruises
17 Dec – 24 Dec | National Waterways Museum, Docks | £10
12:00pm, 1:30pm and 3:00pm each day
Step aboard the King Arthur to see Santa come down the chimney into his floating grotto and enjoy a 45-minute festive cruise along the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. Call 318200 to book.

Gloucester City AFC v AFC Fylde 
17 Dec | K.O. 3:00pm | Whaddon Road
The Tigers welcome AFC Fylde to Whaddon Road for their last game before Christmas.

Christmas Carols on the hour
17 Dec | Gloucester Cathedral | Free
11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm and 4:00pm
Come and enjoy Christmas Carols sung on the hour by Adult Choirs: each service lasts just 30 minutes

One Church Annual Carol Service
18 Dec | GL1 | Free tickets only
The fifth annual carol service is expected to sell out, doors open at 5:15pm for a 6:00pm start. Make sure to order your free ticket here.

Lift Up Your Voice: A Festive Recital
19 Dec 12:30pm | St Johns Church, Northgate Street | Free
Join Caroline Carragher (mezzo soprano) and Sue Honeywill (piano) for an evening of seasonal music.

Christmas Carol Service and Midnight Mass
23 Dec to 24 Dec | Gloucester Cathedral | Free 
A traditional service of readings and carols with the acclaimed Cathedral Choir with Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Find more information on Cathedral Christmas services here.

Last Chance to Visit Father Christmas
24 Dec 10:00am – 4:00pm | King’s Walk Shopping Centre 
Father Christmas makes a quick stop at King’s Walk shopping Centre. Bring your children to visit.

Gloucester Rugby v Harlequins
27 Dec | K.O. 4:00pm | Twickenham Stadium | Live on BT Sport
Watch Glaws take on the Quins in the Aviva Premiership.

Christmas Day Church Services
For details of all services click here.

Healthcare
Help for minor injuries, pain and coughs at the Gloucester Health Access Centre, open every day 8:00am to 8:00pm, in the city centre on Eastgate St.

The NHS non-emergency 111 and the Gloucestershire Out of Hours service 0300 421 0220 if your GP surgery is closed.

Rubbish Collection
See the City Council website for information: http://my.gloucester.gov.uk/mygloucester.aspxThe Hempsted Recycling Centre is open every day, apart from Christmas and New Year’s Day, from 9:00am to 6:15pm.

Happy Christmas and New Year, and thank you for reading and answering my e-news during 2016. Let me know at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk if there are issues you think I should cover in 2017.

Best regards
Richard

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP welcomes changes to Openreach to improve broadband services

Richard Graham MP has welcomed the announcement that Ofcom will require Openreach and BT to legally separate. The announcement follows lobbying from over 100 MPs including Richard, who signed a letter to the Telegraph in January calling for the division.

Richard said, “many of my constituents have raised concerns about their broadband speed. Where I can help them to find a solution with providers I have done, but there needed to be a big shake up in the way that we handled broadband in this country to see faster progress. By separating Openreach, which handles the broadband infrastructure like the cables and cabinets, from BT, which provides the service, I think we are moving in the right direction to allow for more competition, better innovation and better service for my constituents.”

Richard has been working with BT and constituents to help those areas of Gloucester that have little to no broadband service. The Government is committed to a Universal Service Obligation (USO), so every home in the country will have access to broadband at a speed of 10Mbps as a minimum by the end of this Parliament.

 

NOTE TO EDITORS
Openreach is the part of BT Group that develops and maintains the UK’s main telecoms network used by telephone and broadband providers such as Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and BT Consumer. Openreach has obligations to offer the same products to all customers on the same terms.

Ofcom introduced this structure in 2005, and it has delivered benefits such as stronger competition. However, BT retains influence over significant Openreach decisions, and, in the view of Ofcom, has an incentive to make these decisions in the interests of its own retail businesses, rather than BT’s competitors.

In February 2016, Ofcom said that Openreach must become more independent from BT, and in July 2016 outlined proposals for how this might work. In November 2016 Ofcom ordered BT to separate legally from its Openreach division.

 

Why I believe engagement is the right policy with China

Richard with President Xi Jinping

Richard with President Xi Jinping

China has undergone immense change. When I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1980, China didn’t impinge much on the world. Although a UN Security Council member with the world’s biggest population, she generated only 2% of global growth. Today she represents 15% of global GDP, investing about £10 billion annually into the UK. 140,000 Chinese students study here while almost a million tourists have come this year.

In my own constituency and the surrounding area leading exporters like Renishaw, Severn Glocon and Prima Dental all depend considerably on Chinese customers. So do all the aerospace contractors, some of whom (like Messier-Dowty) manufacture in China as well as in our county. We host Chinese students on training and university courses, or on exchanges from Hangzhou Medical College, to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. We export a range of goods from marine diesel engines, dental drills and gantrail to flavoured tea, coatings and cylinders. No wonder UK exports have doubled since 2010. Perhaps most importantly Gloucester hosts the EDF Energy operational HQ for all our nuclear power stations. The new plan at Hinkley Point depends on Chinese financing. And nuclear energy is key both to more home-grown, zero carbon energy and keeping the lights on.

The China factor in our country is for real: it is important for jobs, businesses and our energy needs. As the only Chinese speaking parliamentarian, who has worked in both mainland China and Hong Kong, I want my colleagues to see what’s happening there and why China matters. But business and investment cannot come at any cost and what is happening there is not simply about trade and investment. Our history, systems and values are very different, which leads to many challenges.

On every All Party Parliamentary China Group visit I have to explain aspects of our democracy to Chinese interlocutors. The human rights representative in our Beijing Embassy continues, with colleagues, to advocate a true Rule of Law. In today’s changing China leaders readily acknowledge the importance of this: but the speed and practical implementation of reform is behind China’s own needs, and the legislative function is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

The UK has much to offer in this sphere and the Great Britain China Centre, of which I’m a director, does hugely important and behind the scenes  work with Chinese bodies on many aspects of the Rule of Law. Ultimately this is because the Rule of Law matters so much: not just giving businesses confidence to trade and expand, but defining the relationship between state and citizens too.

Some ask, and will continue to ask, if the UK has sold its soul for money, as the Dalai Lama suggested. It’s easy to criticise the UK for being so open to business with an authoritarian country: I could write the script myself. But at a time when so many non-Western states are crumbling and the Western world is itself facing huge political challenges, it would be bizarre not to engage with China –  a vast nation which has held together against the odds, taken a billion people out of poverty and is now a major global power, impacting all our lives directly and indirectly.

So I believe engagement is the right policy. We’re right to do so wholeheartedly, provided we don’t take our eye off obvious risks, like cybersecurity: and continue to raise, in line with our values, human and animal rights issues. In any event I believe these are in China’s own long term interests too. Ultimately I believe we both have lots to learn from each other, without expecting to agree all the time – and that needs engagement. That’s been my approach for 35 years and today, in uncertain times, dialogue and partnership is far more in our interests than it was back in 1980.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP Richard Graham to demand action on CrossCountry Trains at Prime Minister’s Questions Today

2011-06-transport-minister-mike-penning-at-gloucester-stationRichard Graham will today be asking the Leader of the House at Prime Minister’s Questions today to ask CrossCountry to make a solid commitment to extra services to Gloucester.

The MP has been campaigning for a number of years for an increase in stops at Gloucester on services between Birmingham and Bristol. CrossCountry runs 63 intercity trains a day between Birmingham & Bristol of which only 3 stop at the city of Gloucester.

Formal talks with the Department for Transport on a new franchise for Cross Country concluded in September 2016. Richard Graham met with Rail Minister Paul Maynard in November to discuss possible extra services.

A letter from the Minister confirmed that CrossCountry had indicated that two additional calls each day could be possible from December 2017 but they subsequently told the department this would not be possible due to lack of capacity and that these might be delivered from December 2018.

CrossCountry released a public consultation on 31 October on December 2017 timetable changes in which they state “we were seeking to add some additional station calls at Gloucester in our Manchester to Bristol services from December 2017. It will not be possible to achieve this as there is not enough track capacity to accommodate these services at this time. It is possible this may be achieved in December 2018, and we will work with Network Rail to review the situation. We will consult affected stakeholders on this proposal nearer the time.”

Richard said, “The current situation is totally unacceptable. While we continue to improve station infrastructure & gear up for more and better London route services, Cross Country treats the City of Gloucester as a sort of rail leper – doing anything to avoid more than 3 out of 63 Inter City services a day stopping at the City of Gloucester. Whatever the technical issues of eg electrification at Bristol train operators simply should not be allowed to avoid cities in the way Cross Country has done on this service. It’s time for Ministers to demand change.”

Richard will press the Leader of the House on this today. He has also written to the Managing Director of CrossCountry and is speaking to Network Rail.

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