TRAIN passengers could speed between Swindon and Oxford in under an hour, if a new railway co-operative has its way.

Go-Op, a company founded a decade ago by frustrated rail passengers from Somerset, hopes to run regular services between Somerset and Nuneaton.

The firm hopes to launch the project next summer, with the service up and running by 2031. It needs to raise £3.5m over the next three to six months.

Alex Lawrie, operations director and a founder member of the co-operative, said: “The technical difficulties are hard to overstate. The UK railways are for good reason carefully regulated and we must prove in great detail that our ideas stack up.

“As we are a co-operative, we want to engage with the potential users of the service early. We’d also like to hear from people who’d like to try out with the team now, with view to maybe becoming employee members with us later.”

Go-Op said its timetable would provide five trips a day between Swindon and Oxford and three direct journeys between Taunton and Swindon.

Currently, GWR passengers wanting to travel between Oxford and Swindon must change at Didcot Parkway. The journey to Taunton takes around 80 minutes on the direct GWR service.

The cooperative has proposed introducing two refurbished class 769 units to run on the south west track. The timetable would complement the existing services run by Great Western, bosses say.

Go-Op was founded in 2009 by railway passengers frustrated about what they saw as too few services connecting market towns in Wiltshire and Somerset. “I used to live in Yeovil and I was immensely frustrated about being surrounded by railway lines and not being able to get anywhere,” Mr Lawrie said.

The co-operative is putting forward the new rail service plans under open access rules, which are very rarely used in an industry dominated by a handful of major firms.

Companies can bid to the regulator to run trains on UK railway lines, with the Office of Rail and Road required to weigh up the impact on the network and whether new services would boost competition.

Go-op will run a consultation event in Taunton, Somerset, tonight. Other events to show off the plans to the public will be held in Frome on April 4 and Westbury on June 6.

Inviting people to the events, Mr Lawrie said: “This is just the start. We need to start planning bus services to bring people to the stations and consider how we can further develop and enhance the service. Anyone in the area we serve can be part of the conversation.”