A train operator co-op has put forward plans for new rail services between Oxfordshire and Somerset to improve public transport and encourage people away from car use.
GO-OP Cooperative is also looking for new members – whether it be funders, prospective travellers or those seeking future employment.
The proposal is being made under ‘open access’ rules, which are rarely used in the UK rail industry. An open access operator must prove that they are ‘fit and proper persons’ to act as operators; that the route is technically feasible; and that they can support their business without being reliant on attracting passengers from existing franchised services.
If successful, the project could pave the way for replicating the model in other parts of the country where passengers need new services and there is unused capacity on the line.
The proposal is for two trains to work a complex series of trips between Oxfordshire and Somerset. A carefully designed timetable will complement existing services and provide connections to introduce a large number of useful journeys.
Formed by a group of frustrated rail travellers in the south west, GO-OP has been working on its plans for several years. Operations director and founder member Alex Lawrie said: “A particular goal was to give some of the market towns of Somerset and Wiltshire a regular, functional service where at present the low frequency makes it hard to give up the car.”
The co-op holds its first public meeting in Taunton tomorrow (21 March) at the Albemarle Centre from 6pm to 7.30pm, following up with an event in Frome on 4 April.
“As we are a co-operative, we want to engage with the potential users of the service early. This is just the start – we need to start planning bus services to bring people to the stations, and consider how we can further develop and enhance the service,” said Mr Lawrie. “Anyone in the area we serve can be part of the conversation.”
Those interested in attending these meetings or joining the co-op can find out more at www.go-op.coop.