Swindon Council leader councillor David Renard writes:
This week I did something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a youngster – I rode in the cab of a train. It was an Inter-City 125 running from Swindon to Paddington, which was a rare pleasure.
We are lucky in Swindon in that the railways provide us with both our heritage and our future. This year sees the 175th Anniversary of the Engine Works and over the coming months there will be a train of events occurring at STEAM. Among the many attractions two historic engines will visit Swindon that are usually part of the National collection at York, including an engine that was built here. Please keep your eyes open as we signal details of all the special activities that will follow.
During the journey it was impressive to see the investment that will bring electric trains on the main line in the next few years. There is still much to do and more will be seen in the coming months. Swindon is already being used as a base to train engineers for the electrification work, and Network Rail has even modernised some of the old sidings that border Gorse Hill so they can take the new trains.
In the Designer Outlet Village we have a great illustration of how Victorian structures can be put to good use by the private sector, something I hope their neighbours, English Heritage, whose headquarters is located next to the shops, will appreciate. As we travelled east, I also saw the improvements to Reading Station and later, the work on the Crossrail line. Soon it will be easier than ever to go from Swindon to the City of London or beyond.
Swindon has an enviable location and this investment will benefit us all. We will have faster and more reliable trains to Gloucestershire and the Midlands, Cardiff, Bristol, and the Capital. We will have tremendous opportunities as an affordable town where it is good to do business. I am determined that we will capitalise on these opportunities.
Of course, some point out that the fares that help pay for all this work are a major burden for them, and I am concerned about the massive disparity between the cost of travelling to London from Swindon as opposed to the similar distance to the capital from Didcot. To help, I would recommend anyone to visit the independent rail travel site Seat 61, which shows all except peak time travel booked on the day. There are some very reasonable fares available.