It has been a year since the opening of Kenilworth’s new railway station. Reporter Matt Elofson spoke to a few people who featured in our paper around the time of the opening, to find out what they think of the services, one year on.
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the reopening of Kenilworth station. Until last year residents of Kenilworth had gone 53 years without an operating train service through the town.
The reopening went through several delays before its services went operational on April 30, 2018.
Graham Hyde co-founded the group ‘ASK – A Station for Kenilworth’ with Richard Hicks in January 2004 with the help of a local environmental charity Action 21. He uses the train service out of the Kenilworth station for his daily commute to work in Warwick.
Mr Hyde said: “From day one it’s clearly been ‘our station’ and there are always people getting on and off here. There may only be one train per hour in each direction, but you can’t beat the train for speed if your plans fit in with the timetable.”
The station takes passengers between Leamington and Coventry with a train every hour, and the service is run by the West Midlands Railway, as part of West Midlands Trains. The £13.6 million project to build the station was managed by Warwickshire County Council.
The station was recently mentioned as a major reason for Kenilworth making the list of Best Places to Live for the Midlands region by The Sunday Times.
Mr Hyde added: “Reliability has not been as good as we would have hoped, though things have improved over the last few months. There are a number of reasons for this, most revolving around the fact that our line is a busy single track which our services share with freight and other passenger services that don’t stop at Kenilworth. It was once doubled (between Kenilworth and Leamington) and there are plans to redouble this part by 2026.”
Kenilworth Town Councillor Richard Dickson, who has just also been elected onto Warwick District Council, helped form the Friends of Kenilworth Station group and agreed with other advocates calling the first year back in operation a success with room for improvement.
Cllr Dickson helped start the Friends of Kenilworth Station group as a way to provide a local communication platform in the leading up the reopening of the station. The Friends group’s Facebook page helps town residents keep up with service changes.
Cllr Dickson said: “The first year has gone well with both the station and train staff being very helpful and friendly. Usage has increased especially since January and hopefully this will be matched by increasing reliability which, whilst generally acceptable, could be better if it wasn’t for the busyness of the line with other services including freight.”
Fraser Pithie, a Kenilworth resident who is a features writer for The Railway Magazine, also had mixed but mostly positive reviews of the station’s first year back in service.
Mr Pithie said: “The station and train service has been received well by many people in the town and it’s been great for Kenilworth to be reconnected to the national rail network again and have the convenience brought to both residents and visitors.
“The station booking office has performed well as its a privately ran operation. It is great to have trains serving Kenilworth so the first year in overall terms has seen a good start.
“It’s a credit to the small band of local residents and Warwickshire County Council to have got the station opened back up after over 50 years through which time trains have ran through Kenilworth but not been able to stop and call to provide a service.”