Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury trains

15th December 2005.

The Greater Western Franchise - the contract under which all train services through Melksham will run from 1st April 2006 for 10 years - was awarded on Tuesday to the First Group. This is the company who already run many services such as London to Bristol. The First Group will make a premium payment of 1 billion pounds over the next 10 years to the government. In effect they're paying to run the trains which will no longer be subsidised.

On our TransWilts line, the proposed service is just two trains a day from Westbury to Swindon, calling at Melksham at 07:45 and 21:33. The two return trains call at Melksham at 18:09 and 22:37. Monday to Friday ONLY. The current service will run until December 2006, after which the new service will start.

I don't think the service being offered is adequate for a town the size of Melksham and I think that traffic will melt away and the franchise operator will make MORE of a loss on the service than Wessex Trains lose at the moment. A lot of people will be inconvenienced too.

Is there an alternative? There MIGHT be a chance. Other services were under threat in the bid request, and the First Group has committed to KEEPING them. They do listen. And there's a very strong case for an increased service. Bradford on Avon, with one train an hour each way, sells ten times the tickets sold for Melksham ... and it's a much smaller town. A shuttle train (Chippenham to Westbury) would take no more than the present one coach, could run every 60 or 90 minutes, and would generate MUCH more income.

There are planning and timetabling meetings early in the new year. Final timetables for early 2007 will be set this winter. Please WRITE to the First Group if you feel that the service offered is inadequate. First is a commercial company that wants our business and income. They should listen to good proposals and ideas.

I've written to ... The Managing Director of First Greater Western:

Alison Forster
Managing Director
First Great Western
MH42, Milford House
1, Milford Street
Swindon SN1 1HL

I'm sure that Ms Forster is going to be extemeley busy for the next few months and will pass on these letters to someone who has the new service offerings as a more specific brief. First don't give out many names, so write to Ms Forster at the moment and I'll come back with alternative(s) if and when I have them.

Our local train service user's representative on First's passenger panel:

Roger Newman
36 Blind Lane
Wilts BA14 9PJ

Note - Members of the passenger panel are NOT employees of First Group, but they have been appointed by the company to represent passengers' views to them. It's sufficiently official for them to attend meetings on First's behalf, and have official First Group badges. Mr Newman attended our "Save the Train" meeting on September 20th and spoke "for" First Group. With them winning the bid and proposing to act (I believe) against the interests of Melksham, we should now use him as a conduit of our views to the company.
This information was written on 15th December 2006 and supplied by Graham Ellis. I run a business in Melksham and many of our customers arrive by train. I use the train myself and know many others who do, or who would if it was more frequent and more reliable. I also run the "Save the train" website at http://www.savethetrain.org.uk where you can find more details.

Graham Ellis, 404 The Spa, Melksham, SN12 6QL
01225 708225

Note - all pictures are of threatened weekend trains.