MINEHEAD’S MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has called for a full explanation of a ‘farcical’ situation which has left the town without train services this summer.
He says the West Somerset Railway Company and Somerset County Council need to come clean on why vital work to upgrade the town’s Seaward Way level crossing has not been completed.
Government safety officials have ruled that until the £1 million scheme is carried out no passenger trains can use it. And now an announcement on the company’s website has made it clear work will not start at the earliest until mid-September.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said the loss of trains this summer would deal a heavy blow to the Minehead business community which is attempting to rebuild in the wake of Covid lockdowns.
But he said, both the company and the authority owed the town and its traders a comprehensive and frank explanation as to what has gone wrong.
“The lack of trains is going to wipe hundreds of thousands off local balance sheets this summer at a time when so many businesses have been left financially vulnerable by the pandemic,” he said.
“But what concerns me most is the information vacuum surrounding this whole issue.
“It has been known for a long time that the level crossing is no longer fit for purpose because of increased road traffic. But what I and the local business community wish to be told is why the delays have crept in.
“It is my understanding that the work was ready to start two years ago but then the company insisted on ‘heritage’ rather than electric signalling being installed. That would have added £80,000 to the total cost – an expense which the county council resisted.
“If that is the case then it is utterly farcical. The vast majority of people who use the trains don’t care in the least about the type of signals installed: they simply want to ride on the railway – and in most cases get to Minehead.
“If this was not the case then I shall look forward to a full and clear explanation from both sides as to what has caused this entirely unacceptable delay together with a clear indication from both as to when the work will be done and services restarted.