THE Friends of Bridgwater Station has expressed disappointment at Somerset County Council’s (SCC) refusal to commit to lobbying for CrossCountry trains to stop in Bridgwater.

The group has been specifically lobbying local authorities because there is an ongoing consultation regarding the CrossCountry franchise.

The Friends’ would like to see CrossCountry stops at Bridgwater as this would allow travellers to get non-stop to Bristol, and much quicker to the likes of Birmingham and Manchester.

Chairman Dave Chapple has pressed cabinet member for economic development, planning and community infrastructure, Cllr David Hall, to clarify the SCC’s position.

Cllr Hall said: “SCC will respond to the consultation.

“We see the need for increased frequency of services stopping at Bridgwater as a key issue irrespective of the particular franchising arrangements.

“Our response to all relevant franchise consultations (including the recent Great Western franchise consultation) is therefore to raise this as an issue for Department of Transport (DfT) and the franchise specification to consider.

“As no specific timetable study has been undertaken to determine the most appropriate way of achieving this we believe it is an issue for any franchise to consider.

“Whether the best solution to meet this need is to enhance local services through the Great Western franchise, or to introduce an additional stop on the CrossCountry franchise is not for us to determine but is a matter for DfT and the rail industry, to ensure that the optimum service for passengers is achieved.

“We are simply raising the outcome that needs to be achieved.”

However Mr Chapple said he could not understand the council’s position.

“If SCC are listened to, we could have some extra First Great Western (FGW) stops after about 2021, but these will not be non-stop to Bristol or fast to Birmingham, as that is not part of their remit, and is unlikely to be allowed as FGW would be encroaching upon CrossCountry's profitability,” Mr Chapple said.

“So we are back where we started, which is that either SCC do not understand the purpose of the consultation, or for some reason they are incapable of calling a spade a spade and asking CrossCountry to stop at Bridgwater.

"We hope positive responses from the town council, MP and rail groups will be enough."