WITH over 3.5 million journeys now taken on the rail link between Hereford and Shrewsbury, a users group is long overdue.

Now, such a group has arrived in the guise of the Marches Rail Users Alliance (MRUA).

And MRUA has wasted little time in signalling its intentions.

This week, ahead of a review of Arriva Trains Wales as the operating franchise, MRUA has identified four key issues with the line that it is “keen to discuss” with Arriva, the Department for Transport and the Welsh Assembly.

They are:

1. Provision of an hourly stopping train between Hereford and Shrewsbury

At present, says MRUA, the pattern is irregular with a “considerable imbalance” at certain times of the day.

Examples are cited as a gap from Church Stretton to Shrewsbury between 1504 and 1655 and another between 0938 and 1138 southbound from Craven Arms to Hereford. 

MRUA wants an hourly stopping train interspersed with faster limited stop services.

2. Capacity Management

Members of MRUA’s constituent groups find increasing overcrowding on certain trains.

MRUA wants most trains to be made up of three cars with additional capacity to meet the heavier passenger flows.

3. Connections

MRUA has picked up on frustration at apparent poor connections at Hereford (for the Worcester line), Shrewsbury (for Wolverhampton and Birmingham) and Newport (for London and the West).

Passengers at smaller stations are said to face waiting areas that are “very basic” and a cafe at Hereford that closes at 18.00 when the station is still busy.

4. Integration for onward travel

MRUA says this could be improved at most stations at modest cost and in some cases may be deterring travel.

Cited as examples of scope for improvement are: pedestrian approaches at Hereford and Ludlow, car parking at Leominster and  bus service information generally.

MRUA represents an alliance of the Rail User groups along the high capacity rail link between Hereford and Shrewsbury, which has a population of 200,000 living within easy distance of six stations.

Current rail use is high with over 3.5 million trips made into or out of Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow, Craven Arms, Church Stretton and Shrewsbury and passenger numbers have increased because of  early improvements by Arriva Trains Wales.

 But MRUA says the service provided has not kept up with this growth.

MRUA chairman Professor Leslie Lumsdon said: "Given the continued annual fare rises, we deserve better. It is important for passengers to make their views known to the train operating company and others responsible for delivering our rail service. These views can be fed through to the companies interested in bidding for the Wales and Borders franchise in 2018."

Responses to the issues raised by MRUA can be put to its secretary Ian Slater, at mrua@slateri17.freeserve.co.uk or Prof Lumsdon at leslumsdon@hotmail.com or  01584 877588.