SHAKESPEARE’S Stratford would benefit massively from a direct rail service with London say cultural chiefs in the town.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) have written to the Department for Transport (DfT) and Great Western Railway urging them to consider a new train service to Stratford from London Paddington.
A SBT spokesperson said: “As William Shakespeare’s home town, Stratford-upon-Avon is the cornerstone of tourism in Warwickshire. Of the 15million trips annually to the county, 9.3million visit Shakespeare’s England. Tourism is worth £664 million to the local economy and supports 12,000 jobs.
“The new service would link Stratford with other key international destinations on the route via Warwick, Oxford, Reading (Gatwick/Heathrow airport links), Slough (for Windsor) and London Paddington (Heathrow Express/4 tube lines/Elizabeth Line.
“In tourism terms this train service could be justifiably called a ‘String of Pearls’, and could enable significant scope for market growth for the towns on the route.
“We are encouraged that this potential service has also received broad support from other key stakeholders in the consultation, including Warwickshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Stratford District Council, West Midlands Rail Executive and Transport for West Midlands.”
The spokesperson added SBT and the RSC would continue to work closely with partners in Shakespeare’s England and others in the area to press for improvements to Stratford’s rail links.
RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “The RSC exists for everyone to enjoy. Although we perform throughout the UK and the world, our home is here in Stratford-upon-Avon and we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to visit our theatres and the town.
“In our joint RSC – Shakespeare Birthplace Trust response to the Department for Transport, we recommend strongly that DfT and GWR consider creating a new direct train service between Stratford and London Paddington.
“The RSC welcomes over a million visitors to our Stratford theatres each year, and at present only six per cent of visitors arrive in Stratford by train; comparing unfavourably with the 13 per cent national average for a similar destination.
“We know from our audiences, visitors and employees that the current train service does not serve them well. We believe that a reliable direct service between Stratford and London, one that also stops at other key destinations, would encourage far more people to use the train. This will alleviate pressure on our roads, parking and congestion, and ensure that Stratford strengthens its position as one of the UK’s must-visit locations.”