Save the Melksham Train
Our battle ....

[This is the first of a pair of articles and looks at the Swindon - Melksham - Salisbury - Southampton service. A second article (link) goes on to have a look at implications beyond just "Melksham" and concludes that we're just an early battle in a gathering storm]

When I set up the "Save the Train" website about a year ago, it was in response to a threat under the new Great Western Franchise to withdraw all Swindon to Southampton trains. The threat seemed quite astounding - to cut out a service between two major centres, based on one line slipped into a middle page of a consultation request that ran to nearly 100 pages.

Our company, based here at Melksham in Wiltshire (which is served ONLY be the train under threat) has many customers who use the train - but perhaps our customers are a dying breed of railway users? That turns out, emphaticallly, to NOT be the case. Traffic on the line has risen at a compound rate of 35% per annum for the last five years. In other words, ticket sales have risen from 3,000 to 27,000 per year at Melksham, and the First group (who won the franchise) have told me that there are 109,000 passengers per annum using the train on the section through Melksham.

Melksham, Chippenham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster, Dilton Marsh are all growing dramatically, and no-one has doubted that traffic would continue to grow if the service was retained, nor that it would increase dramatically if it became a regular service every 2 hours - such a service being providable by a single 153 class (single coach) train. Speak to the First managers and they tell me that there's "nothing wrong" with the financial case that I make - that a service of 8 trains a day would indeed be a better economic proposition that the skeleton/remenant service of two trains a day that's proposed in the very early morning (06:20 our of Swindon) and early evening (18:12 out of Swindon).

So why - in spite of vigorous campaigning - are we hitting a brick wall?

Perhaps the reduction of the service to an inappropriate level is just one step that's planned. Perhaps there's a plan somewhere to render the service un-viable before it grows too much, so that it can then be withdrawn when the new service manifestly fails? Perhaps you think I'm being too melodramatic?

Alas, this "background plan" is the one that makes the most sense to explain what's being going on. In the short term, screwing up what service are left is a nonsense. In the long term, with a wish to kill the line, it makes perfect sense.

This hasn't happened just on the Swindon to Southampton service. You'll find that other lines / issues have received similar rough justice. And that there are great inconsistencies in information provided too. I've been told that it costs somewhere from 150,000 to 650,000 pounds to hire a train for a year. I've been told that buses to replace trains are NOT under consideration, but that a bus service to take the place of the removed trains IS (or has been) under consideration.

I don't, in truth, know exactly why there's such a brick wall. Does the Transport Minister's ex live in Melksham and it's a personal feud? Are they looking for some line to make an example of, prefereably where there's no chance of them loosing any seats at the next election? I'm much more inclined to look at the freight possibilities of the line - single track - and the talk of major freight depots at Westbury and perhaps elsewhere in the A350 / A36 corridor. All the major policical parties seem keen on appearing green and supporting schemes such as this one to get freight off the roads. But none seems to be considering the effect on / displacement of existing services on the same railway tracks. The line through Melksham is slated for major growth, and that ain't going to be through a packed passenger train before dawn, is it??

New laws / guidance for railway line / passenger service closure are being proposed at the moment. It will no longer be the minister's decision, but a purely financial one, and it will look at issues such as how much money would be made selling railway land, and how much extra tax would be taken from motorists forced into their cars. There's not a hardship / convenience case, though - in other words, the fact that a 25 minute journey on a train is turned into over an hour by bus, with a change, with issues for those with special needs and people with luggage ... that's NOT taken into account. Oh - and there's a variety of interested parties who can challenge the viability of a line to start the process rolling.

I don't think the new law is being passed as an academic exercise - what would be the point? I think it's being passed to make it easier to close lines that are wanted for freight traffic, withdraw services from smaller stations on busy lines or that run into busy junctions, and replace services that aren't easily paralleled by roads by giving aside vital railway land to the railway lobby.

I'm going to conclude this first part of this article by widening the scope of what I'm saying ... by telling you that it's not JUST Swindon - Melksham - Southampton that's under threat.

[This is the first of a pair of articles and looks at the Swindon - Melksham - Salisbury - Southampton service. A second article (link) goes on to have a look at implications beyond just "Melksham" and concludes that we're just an early battle in a gathering storm]

Written 2006-06-12 05:28:00

Available entries ...

Welcome to News and Views
Welcome to News and Views
The story so far
Looking slightly wider
Don't let this become history!
Meeting, 20th September - getting nervous
Encouraging traffic not just warm words
Official (Government) view ... and I agree
Don't believe everything you hear
Old pictures. Not to be repeated event
Great meeting but just a start.
35% Growth in one year - Melksham ticket statistics
Swindon to Trowbridge
Regularity, Reliability, Realistic connections
Core meeting
Didn't you read page 52 of web document?
An easy timetable - Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon
Would this government close a station completely?
Quotes from Government
Tuesday, 18th October - Kiss and Ride day
Six NEW factors why the TransWilts train that serves Melksham should be enhanced and not cut
And more train users ...
Try the train on 18th October
Tracking codes for TransWilts stations
New stats prove it - the service IS used
Bump from Glasgow
Ready for Tuesday
Kiss and Ride report
A case of the tail wagging the dog??
The system is overcomplex - no wonder some odd things happen
Warminster Bus Running Day, 2005
The storm's eye?
A disappointing letter
Some scenes at Melksham Station
Monday morning, Melksham Station
Busy train at Melksham
Forum Archives available
A THOUSAND visitors
What does it cost to run a train?
Timetable - Melksham to Reading and London
Plus a footnote - Melksham to London
A bustle before the 17:02
STILL worth writing. To MP, To Dft, to bidders.
Keeping the campaign tail up
Don't drink and drive - drink and train.
Driving customers away?
Latest official answer
At Temple Meads today
Melksham and TransWilts train service - closure by stealth?
From the rumour mill
A Quandry
Santa Claus at Melksham Station
Train service fading away too?
Greater Western Franchise awarded
First Group - First answer on Melksham
First specific Melksham rumour ...
Virtually no service - or excellent service. Request the latter.
Should badgers be culled?
Melksham rail traffic up 33% in 3 months
Upside Down
Every journey has a story
New fares from 2nd January 2006
No final decision yet
Even new stations don't always survive
A comparison across the world
Christmas service - unrequired, or just unprovided?
New year, 2006
Bustitution - buses for trains on Saturdays and Sundays
New Sign
The Meeting Season
Reply from MD of First Great Western
Wilts County Council could save the Melksham / Transwilts train
What does First pay the government for Greater Western?
Railway statistics and Melksham comparisons - how do we stand?
Winners and losers in the Devizes constituency
First want to hear your aspirations
Repeat - PLEASE write in with your aspirations
Were they purchasing votes?
Current status ...
Further threats
Keep watching - coming to the boil!
Recent Correspondence
From my postbag ...
Timetable consultation coming up
Waiting, with baited breath
Meeting with a local MP
Today or tomorrow
Draft Timetable is here
Out with the old users, in with the new
On the 05:52 this morning
Background and opinion
Draft timetables (continued)
Three and a half answers out of 4
A week is a long time
Roger Jones answers 5 months later!
Safer current trains - the 06:56, 07:45 and 18:09
INPUTS NEEDED by 8th March
Meetings and Consultation Responses
A whole pile of responses
Ploughing back OUR money, not theirs.
New pages and information
On supporting other campaigns ...
Not just the TransWilts and Melksham ...
Service failure looses more customers
The Waiting Game
Real time train monitoring
Someone can't wait!
High emotion
UPDATE - new timetables
An update - BAD, BAD news for Melksham ...
First - transforming travel
Constituency Changes
Southampton to Westbury RESTORED
Friday, 21st, Trowbridge
Meeting, Friday 21st
Celebrating a closure
Meeting, tonight
Friday's meeting
What SWPTUF says
Meeting, 21st - notes
Parliamentary Debate, 25th April
First back down or buses too.
Diary Date - 12th May
RailFuture meeting today
RailFuture meeting - some gems
First way to get rid of customers?
Friday meeting - invite and details
It gets worse
Every so often, stop and look
Bus service costs 25 pounds per passenger to run?
Carrying fresh air around?
Home soon.
Put yourself in their shoes
Lies, damned lies and statistics
... is part of a planned war
Political pressure - press release
How to catch the 18:48 from Chippenham - the DfT suggests
Internet connection issues
Selling off any possibility of improvement
Letter from Derek Twigg
Important but not refreshing meeting
Welcome for Michael Ancram and Chris Grayling
Visit by Chris Grayling and Michael Ancram
Friday, 7th July - Melksham
Rail future - the First Alternative
Pivotal decison - to grow or to strangle?
Bad news coming?
In praise of estate agents
Press Release - Open Access operator negotiations
Open Access case strengthened
A desire for honesty
Flowers for Melksham. Flowers at Melksham.
Has our publicity reached the right people?
One year on
A year on - an empty bank holiday
Bus connections to Melksham from Chippenham
Is this train used?
If its working well, change it so it doesnt.
20% service cut = 40% traffic cut?
A difficult choice for voters
Consultant's reports recommended a modest INCREASE
From Ystrad Mynach
Taunton meeting
More cancellations
Passenger or lemmings
Behind the new timetable
Is this fare?
Returning from their UK course
End of term - don't care
Current and future summary
2 weeks to go
Fading away?
Coming to a course in Melksham
Last Week - Press Release
They're gone ... but ...
New service - first impressions
"Told you so"
Christmas, 2006
Welcome to 2007
PLEASE LOBBY - First, Dft, County Council, your MP
Key players
Keeping the diary rolling
End game?
Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
Invite letter - 5th March 2007 meeting
Passengers or Customers?
A fast-moving story?
The traveller, not the train!
Report - Monday night's meeting - press brief
What is happening?
Reply to Petition
Petition Response - detail, opinion, context
Government pressure to shut up. But let us look forward.
Asking for the political and part views
Helsinki and Heathrow to Melksham - Saturday
Gordon Dodge, Rest in Peace
An update
The way forward - improved service and improved station
A roundup from a MELKSHAM perspective
Update being updated!
News Roundup - a LOT is happening
Diary notes
New faces - mayors and chairs.
We have another hill to climb
Radio - tomorrow morning?
Weymouth, Poor Provisional, and Sunday
A Comparison - travel in the USA by train
The Ghost Train, Purton
How to fill platforms, and railway company coffers too!
FSB - North and West Wilts Commitee - Federation of Small Businesses
Frustrated but not depairing
Front page update
Comment on December timetables
A First to Stagecoach comparison
Does the new man want to play hard?
And the week ends with two more cancellations!
Comparing a Wiltshire town with a Norfolk one
Commutes are longer, and in the west we may know why
Campaigning Mantra - Philosophy behind the case
30 late, and a bus not a train ....
Staffing-go-round - but the campaigners carry on
Rail user groups do NOT represent rail users?
Cancellations, Changes and Crass Christmas
First Great Western's Melksham service branded "a disgrace"
A pile of 160 train tickets for tomorrow
Santa Claus spotted at Swindon Station
TransWilts trains ceased a year ago. Lets look forward
Trains to and from Melksham - Timetable from Dec07 to May08
Happy Christmas everyone!
How have trains being doing in the last 48 hours?
Asda - an opportunity that can be used or squandered
Another slap in the face from First Great Western
On truthfully advertising the case
Fare Strike Day
Comparing a different part of the country
Where has our train gone?
Want to comment? You're welcome on the forum
An unusual journey for me - some observations
Milk producers
Meeting Season
The heart says "public transport", the head forces car
Not a Swiss clock railway this morning
Senseless service - could become sensible
Terminal 5 - a portent for the Olympics?
Loss of train - loss of job
Population growth, but congested roads
Road - busy ... railway - no trains, so no users
One long journey ends and another begins
Campaign update - news for December 08 / 09 / 10 / 11 ...
Preserved Railways - a look forward
Spring 2009 Campaign update

This site is hosted by Well House Consultants Ltd. (
Contact Information

Further Information:
 Current Summary
 Daily update
 User forum
 Service now
 Service future
 Future Analysis
 Recent Statistics
 Recent letters
 Letter to DfT
 Save the train
 Support us
 Other Maps
 Station facilities
 Station approach
 Trains diverted
 About Melksham
 Site Map
 About this site