Richard Benyon 'increasingly hopeful' of rail electrification extension to Kintbury and Hungerford

Richard Benyon and the newly appointed Rail Minister, Claire Perry, have this week met in the House of Commons. Richard requested the meeting to raise wider concerns about the rail service and to seek assurances about the new trains and the electrification of the Great Western Mainline.The Minister, who is the Member of Parliament for neighbouring Devizes, told Richard: The ‘refresh’ of the decision to electrify the line as far as Newbury will conclude over the summer, after which a decision will be made as to whether to run electrification to Bedwyn. The economic review which Richard and Claire pushed for with the previous Rail Minister has concluded that there is an overwhelming economic case to extend electrification to Bedwyn. A ratio of 2.43 (£2.43 of economic benefit for every £1 spent) is a better economic case than HS2 and much of the electrification work taking place in Wales. If electrification stops at Newbury it would almost certainly mean another platform at Newbury Station for smaller shuttle trains running west of the town. The estimated cost for this is £3 million. A decision on new bi-modal trains (trains which can run on electricity or diesel) will be taken within the next 6 weeks. The new rolling stock will offer an improved travelling experience for commuters. Following the meeting, Richard said: “The Minister was receptive to my questioning of the £75 million cost of extending electrification from Newbury to Bedwyn. It assumes a stand-alone contract, rather than an extension of the existing works where scale and procurement would keep costs down. I am increasingly confident that electrification beyond Newbury, to serve constituents in Kintbury and Hungerford, will be realised.”He continued: “I am determined to ensure the best service possible for the many thousands who commute from West Berkshire, and I will be raising matters related to performance when I meet with First Great Western shortly.”