A NEW half-hourly service between Farnham and Guildford will take to the tracks in May.

It is part of South Western Railway’s new train timetable, offering railway passengers extra services and journey opportunities.

Andy Mellors, managing director of South Western Railway, said: “There will be substantial changes to our next timetable starting in May, which will bring more than 300 additional train services a week for our customers.

“Many of these service enhancements are based on an extensive consultation process and feedback sessions that were undertaken previously with local stakeholders, businesses, community groups and customers. We are very pleased that these enhancements will come to fruition shortly and we will continue to work on refurbishing our existing mainline fleets and preparing for the introduction of new state-of-the-art suburban trains to start and enter service by the end of the year.”

The new direct rail service between Farnham and Guildford was previously set to be delivered in December.

But after the Government announced it had banned rail operators from making wholesale changes to timetables, as previously reported in the Herald in October, South Western Railway confirmed the Guildford rail link was one of the proposed changes that had to be knocked back.

David Beaman, Waverley borough and Farnham town councillor for the Farnham Castle ward, previously raised concerns over the amount of time the level crossing would be closed if the service was to go ahead, adding to traffic congestion and poor air quality.

Commenting on the new May timetable, the Farnham Residents councillor said: “South Western Railways do not appear to have listened to the concerns that have been expressed regarding the possible effect on traffic in central Farnham that are likely to be caused by the introduction of the additional half-hourly train service between Farnham and Guildford from May 19.

“As a consequence of the introduction of the new rail service the level crossing, which is already closed for up to 15 minutes per hour and already causes considerable traffic congestion in the town, is likely to be closed for up to 25 minutes per hour.

“At a time when Farnham is undergoing considerable change with development of Woolmead and Brightwells the closure of the level crossing for longer periods of time will not help the town to survive during this very difficult period of transformation.

“There is already an hourly bus service between Farnham and Guildford which operates over the Hog’s Back and is as fast as the proposed rail service which will operate via Aldershot, so it is difficult to see what passenger need exists for such a direct service.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are planning to meet with the highways authority to discuss how we can mitigate any impact on road traffic at the crossing when the new timetable is implemented.”