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Swindon to Kemble Rail Line

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 28 October 2010

6. What plans he has for the future of the Swindon to Kemble rail line; and if he will make a statement. (19917)

The Government recognise that redoubling the railway between Swindon and Kemble could generate important passenger benefits and improve resilience by providing a diversionary route for the Great Western main line to Wales. Unfortunately, the need to address the deficit means that we are not able to commit Government funding to this project at present, but it remains our aspiration to take it forward in the future.

I thank the Minister for that response, but my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and I have been campaigning on this issue and on the issue of improving the A417/419 road. The absence of either of those schemes impedes travel between Gloucestershire and London, and that is detrimental to Gloucestershire’s economy. Will she revisit both those schemes as soon as possible?

I am very much aware of the campaign that my hon. Friend has run, alongside my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds and other local MPs, such as the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood). I have met a number of MPs to discuss this project and we recognise that it is a good scheme. Important work is being done through the Grip 4 study, which is due to conclude shortly. We hope that we will be able to fund this scheme, but at the moment the deficit—the significant crisis in the public finances—that we have inherited means that we cannot take forward all the good schemes that are on the table. There is no doubt, however, that this scheme will be a serious contender when we assess these schemes again in relation to the next railway control period.