By email to GWR Interim MD (sent 9 December 2020): –
The latest Station Usage figures have just been released by ORR, and show a further significant increase for Pilning – 55% compared to 2018/19, and a truly remarkable 1,440% increase compared to 2015/16. This shows beyond doubt that the initial increase was no flash in the pan – it has not only been maintained, but usage has continued increasing year on year as more and more people become aware of the station and the journey opportunities that even its current very limited service offers.
The normal reaction of any commercially-minded organisation to such an upward trend would be “There’s clearly demand and further potential here – what can we do to capitalise on it and develop it further?” Covid has of course affected usage since March, but our observations indicate that in the circumstances it is holding up remarkably well. Hopefully by May 2021 some semblance of normality will be returning, and the railway will be actively looking for all possible ways to attract people back to the network.
With this in mind, we have a modest and feasible suggestion for bringing more passengers to Pilning next spring and summer – namely the provision of one extra call at 12:33 or 13:33 from the start of the May 2021 timetable. This would enable people from elsewhere to visit Pilning, stop off for lunch at the Plough pub a couple of minutes’ walk away, and catch the existing 14:33 (which will hopefully be retimed to 15:33) to return or continue their journey a couple of hours later. As you know, there is a significant and growing market for visiting “interesting” smaller stations – we have encountered a number of intrepid adventurers already, we know from comments we receive that more would do so if the service made it easier, and it is all valuable revenue for the railway especially as some people travel considerable distances in the process. It would also be a welcome boost for the Plough – a much-valued local business, which like so many pubs has suffered severely in recent months, and which needs all possible means to attract customers.
I therefore appeal to you to give serious consideration to what is after all a very modest request. You have in fact already done exactly this at Portsmouth Arms, to cater for lunchtime traffic to / from the nearby pub, so all we are asking is for you to do the same at Pilning as you have done there. You have stated previously that the current service meets the DfT specification – but that is only the minimum service requirement. There is nothing to stop GWR providing additional calls if it wishes – indeed, Transport Minister Grant Shapps recently stated that he wants to see more flexibility in timetable planning, so I am sure there would be no objection from that quarter. It would cost you next to nothing (given that GWR make around 91,000 calls per week), it would help the local economy, and it would show that GWR is prepared to listen and to do what it can – and it would be a very positive note for you to go out on as you prepare to hand the reins back to Mark Hopwood next month!
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Response from GWR (received 15 December 2020): –
Thank you for your email. I understand that you will be disappointed but as we have set out previously, we will not be adding additional calls at Pilning.
We will maintain the quantum of calls required by the Department of Transport. If in future they ask for more stops we will of course comply, but for now, we will not be making any changes.
We will however continue to offer a Pilning ticket easement for travel from/to Severn Beach station which has a much more frequent service.