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Co-operative sustainable travel pilot service to be introduced in Hampshire

GO! Co-operative Limited trading as GOCO, a multi-stakeholder sustainable travel co-operative, has announced that it is to trial a unique ‘low carbon’ local rail service in Hampshire this month. It will be the first time that a co-operative has operated a rail service in the UK.

The demonstration ultra light rail service from Medstead & Four Marks to Alton is set to operate for four weeks from 24 January 2011 and will connect with South West Trains’ service to London Waterloo. The service is aimed at meeting the demands for a convenient and sustainable local rail service for the local population of around 7,000, including many London commuters. It will reduce the need for commuters to drive and park their cars at Alton station.

The GOCO Mid Hants Link will run five times each Monday to Friday morning and afternoon peak time. Tickets will cost £5 return (£3 single) with reductions for concessions and can be purchased on the train. The lightweight railcars have a flywheel to store energy, allowing the use of a smaller engine to minimise emissions.

The scheme has been made possible through the support of East Hampshire District Council, Hampshire County Council, Mid Hants Railway, Parry People Movers and South West Trains. Finance has been provided through a special issue of loan stock from Lightweight Community Transport and GOCO members.

Chris Phillimore, Business Development Director at GOCO, commented: “These lightweight railcars are capable of serving locations that would normally be considered too small for a rail service. The pilot service is an example of the strengths of our co-operative business model, ‘big society’ in action and of the benefits of sustainable travel. Based on the success of the demonstration, we will be aiming to move to a permanent service during 2011.”

Councillor Mel Kendal, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Environment added: “Hampshire County Council is delighted to support this local business venture, aimed at meeting sustainable local travel demands. Not only does the service integrate with the existing transport infrastructure but it also addresses the low carbon agenda. We wish the service every success and await the outcome of the trial.”

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