Councillor Renard’s column 31st May 2018

Councillor David Renard at STEAM

Swindon’s railway heritage has underpinned the town’s success over the last hundred years, making it one of the best connected places in the country.

And it is the railway that will once again play a significant role in boosting Swindon’s economic prosperity in the years to come.

Biggest investment in rail since the Victorian Era

The electrification of the Great Western Railway, which will cut rail journey times to London, will make Swindon an even more desirable location for companies and people who are being priced out of the capital.

A consultation is also taking place for another vital rail link, which will bring further benefits to our town. I am of course talking about the western rail link to Heathrow Airport and I am currently preparing a submission on behalf of the Council to support this much-needed rail extension.

As many of you will know, currently you must either experience the inconvenience of changing to a bus at Reading, or face the extra journey time of heading all the way into Paddington to change to a connecting train if you wish to travel by train from Swindon into Heathrow.  If you travel by road, you will know the joys of delays on the M4, especially near the M25 if you have to travel at about peak time.

Why we need the western rail access to Heathrow

A western rail access to Heathrow would change all this.

It would put Swindon within an hour of the airport. This is an important factor for business people as journeys of less than an hour are acceptable whereas those that take longer are not.  We already have excellent companies here in Swindon with international links and increasing our opportunities to attract investment can only mean more jobs, more wealth, and a better Borough. It would allow Swindon town centre to re-emerge as a modern residential-led centre, with better access to London and the rest of the world.  It would also support the proposed North Star Village regional leisure destination.

I cannot stress often enough how vital economic prosperity is for Swindon’s future. It is only through a vibrant, private sector economy that we can generate the jobs that people need, as well as the revenue to pay taxes for public services.

Heathrow may be a famous passenger airport, but it is also one of the country’s major trading ports.  The rail access to the west would provide more opportunities for local exporters to sell their goods abroad.  Greater use of the rail for freight, as well as people, is better for the environment as it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  It would also help reduce congestion on the M4.

Some of you may have heard the slogan that the ongoing electrification work is the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era.  A direct rail line to the airport could be the best investment of the 21st Century.