TRAIN users are being urged to use a new link from Tewkesbury to London – or risk losing it.
Members of the Ashchurch, Tewkesbury and District Rail Promotion Group celebrated the new service when it began yesterday.
The first direct train link to London for many years saw the Worcester to Paddington high speed service stop at the Ashchurch for Tewkesbury railway station at 5.39am.
The First Great Western service runs from Monday to Friday and takes two hours and 28 minutes to get to the capital.
John Stretton, of the rail group, said he was delighted the service had launched, but stressed more people would have to use it if it was to remain after a year-long trial ended.
Yesterday just five people got on at Ashchurch, with one going to Swindon, two to Cheltenham and two to London.
He said: "First Great Western have said that we need to encourage as many people as we can.
"We've said to people in leaflets we've handed out that we've got to use it or the chances are we will lose it."
He said it would take time for people to realise that the new service was operating.
The new link enables people from Tewkesbury to go direct to Paddington, but with no direct link back, passengers have to change at Cheltenham in order to get back to Ashchurch.
But Mr Stretton said Tewkesbury people would benefit greatly from the service.
A super off-peak single can be purchased on board or in advance for £27 – £46 cheaper than paying on the day for the same train at Cheltenham
First Great Western ruled out a later time of 7.21am.
Mr Stretton explained: "We asked about that, but they said the line is too congested at that time for it to stop."
County councillor for Tewkesbury, Vernon Smith, welcomed the train into Ashchurch as Shire Hall is funding the £12,000 trial to encourage economic growth.
He said: "It's fantastic news and will help to allow Tewkesbury to grow."