An essential train service has been removed by Cross Country which both children and adults from the Forest of Dean / Monmouthshire rely on to get to school and work in Gloucester, Cheltenham and beyond. Specifically, the Cardiff to Nottingham return service is no longer stopping at Chepstow or Lydney at key points in the day to align with the start and end of the school day. This is in direct opposition with the government and train operator announcements earlier this week that additional services were being put in place to support children safely returning to school in September.
Cross Country trains have said they would put on an extra train to “address a gap in the afternoon timetable between 15:00 and 17:00 and introduce stops at Chepstow and Lydney in our 15:27 departure from Gloucester. This will have the advantage of supporting children returning after the schools reopen.” Unfortunately, none of the school children will be able to make use of this service as they will either still be in school or only just making their way to a station.
Without these services in place the children will have unnecessary long days (e.g. 10-12+ hours), will need to wait for extended periods in stations with no provisions because cafes are closed and will then be forced on to crowded trains where their ability to socially distance will be a challenge.
This will no doubt impact their wellbeing and it will isolate them from their local communities as they will not return in time at the end of the day to participate in sports and activities.
When the clock’s change, there will be additional safeguarding concerns as they will need to travel to and from the stations in the dark.
Beyond these immediate concerns, the removal of these services will have a lasting impact on our rural community and environment. Educational and employment opportunities will be severely limited, and more people will be forced into cars - driving up pollution and putting additional pressure on a road network that already cannot cope (e.g. bottlenecks at Chepstow and Highnam) and parents will need to flex their return to work around these circumstances.
We need your support to urgently reinstate these train services – 7:15 am from Chepstow stopping at Lydney, Gloucester and Cheltenham and the 4:15 pm from Cheltenham stopping at Gloucester, Lydney and Chepstow.
Here is the impact the removal is having on a local student: Year 8 female pupil lives in Lydney and attends the Crypt, Gloucester.
Original Day – 9 Hrs, 40 minutes leaving home at 7:15 and returning at 16:55. Total Travel/Wait time: 2hr, 40 minutes
Morning Commute: Leave home at 7:15 to catch 7:25 train at Lydney and arrive at Gloucester at 7:45. Take number 10 bus and arrive at school at 8:25. Total travel/wait time: 1 hr, 10 minutes
Evening Commute: Leave school at 15:25 pm and catch number 10 bus to station. Arrive at Gloucester at 16:05 and wait in station café to catch 16:25 train to Lydney. Arrive at Lydney at 16:45 and home at 16:55. Total travel/wait time: 1 hr, 30 minutes.
Current Day – 10 Hrs, 45 minutes leaving home at 6:45 and returning at 17:30. Total Travel/Wait time: 3 hrs, 15 minutes
Morning Commute: Leave home at 6:45 to catch 6:54 train at Lydney and arrive at Gloucester at 7:10. Take number 10 bus and arrive at school at 7:50. Total travel/wait time: 1 hr, 10 minutes
Evening Commute: Leave school at 15:25 pm and catch number 10 bus to station. Arrive at Gloucester at 16:05 and wait in station café to catch 17:00 train to Lydney. Arrive at Lydney at 17:20 and home at 17:30. Total travel/wait time: 2 hrs, 5 minutes.
To note: Students attending a school in Cheltenham are further impacted and can expect over a 12-hour day with an additional 2+ hours of travel/wait times.
The parent groups have as such put together a petition to ARRIVA CrossCountry Trains to demonstrate the need for these services, which follows letters submitted to ARRIVA from local authorities, MP's from both Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean as well as the ourselves at FEP.