Calls for improved services at Kenilworth Station's official opening

Calls to improve Kenilworth Station's services were made at an official opening of the station today (Friday July 20).

The station was officially opened by the unveiling of a plaque outside the station's entrance by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, almost three months after the first train left the station on Monday April 30.

The plaque outside the Kenilworth Station entrance. From left: Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, deputy leader of Warwickshire County Council Cllr Peter Butlin, joint managing director of WCC Monica Fogarty, Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, and chair of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Jonathan Browning

The plaque outside the Kenilworth Station entrance. From left: Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, deputy leader of Warwickshire County Council Cllr Peter Butlin, joint managing director of WCC Monica Fogarty, Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, and chair of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Jonathan Browning

And in speeches before the unveiling, Warwickshire County Council's chairman Cllr John Cooke called on Mr Grayling to do what he could to improve services.

Cllr Cooke said: "Recently, we were told that promised enhancements to the services operating from here will be delayed. We hope that perhaps with a gentle prod from you (Mr Grayling), other routes (to Nuneaton) will be opened up here sooner rather than later.

"It (the station) is something that is highly valued, and there has been lots of attention about it."

Kenilworth Station currently has an hourly service between Coventry and Leamington, and no Sunday services.

From left, Chris Grayling MP, Kenilworth mayor Cllr Mike Hitchins, chairman of Warwickshire County Council Cllr John Cooke, and Jeremy Wright MP

From left, Chris Grayling MP, Kenilworth mayor Cllr Mike Hitchins, chairman of Warwickshire County Council Cllr John Cooke, and Jeremy Wright MP

It was hoped a Sunday service and through trains to Nuneaton would be introduced in December, but this has now been pushed back until May 2019 at the earliest.

In a later interview, Mr Grayling said the onus was on West Midlands Trains, the station's operators, to bring about timetable improvements.

And despite the delays to the station's opening and its £13.6 million cost, Mr Grayling said it would be worthwhile.

He said: "I think it's absolutely worth it, and I think Kenilworth's worth it. I think it's going to be a great asset to the area.

"We've been hearing today from West Midlands Trains about their plans to double the length of the trains (by replacing the units). I suspect demand will grow.

"It's very much in the hands of West Midlands Trains to meet the demand as it grows. The potential is here now. It's a modern station and there's scope to expand capacity.

"In due course, undoubtedly there's going to be more connections further afield as the railways continue to develop in the West Midlands."

And the MP for Kenilworth and Southam Jeremy Wright said: "This is a great start, but we want to see more. We want to see more destinations, more trains, more capacity for people to get to different places around the country.

"People in Kenilworth have been pretty patient - we've waited a long time for a station of any kind. This is a foot in the door but we've got to keep forcing that door open."

However, Mr Wright said he felt timetable improvements should only be introduced when the network is properly ready.

He added: "If you don't do that, people simply get more frustrated. So if it takes a little longer I would rather that and make sure we've got it right rather than try and rush things and not get it right.

"People can be certain I will continue to be putting pressure on the Secretary of State (Mr Grayling) and the DfT, but also on the train operating company (West Midlands Trains) to make sure that happens."

The £13.6 million cost to build the station was at the top end of Warwickshire County Council's budget.

A one-off fee to be paid to West Midlands Trains by the council to help cover potential losses was also agreed.

Deputy leader of the county council and the portfolio holder for finance Cllr Peter Butlin said this was a 'perfectly normal' arrangement and did not disclose what the figure agreed was.