Save the Melksham Train
One year on

It's a year to the day since this web site was launched ... and in that time we've had Nine thousand, Nine hundred and Thiry six different visitors to this web site. We've been in touch with hundred and hundreds of people - on our forum, by email, by phone, by post and in person. I've spoken on the radio, appeared on TV, received excellent coverage in the local paper. Support has come from all sides of the political spectrum, and from a-political bodies too - from small local setups to national campaign groups, from the left and from the right. The Swindon to Westbury and beyond train service was raised by all 4 MPs along the line at a debate in Westminster, and senior politicians have visited us to add their weight to the campaign. Not bad going for a domain I registered for 2 quid for the year, and only possible because I'm pushing a cause with huge interest and support.

During the year, I've learnt a lot. What is costs to hire a train, how train timetabling works, all the various levels of government. I've learnt how the current franchise and regulation system doesn't work (at least in our case) to the benefit of the community that it's supposed to serve - how vested political interests, shareholder's interests, the interests of a civil service that feels that consultation is an evil necessity, and more, have lead to a system that's far from being a level playing field. Putting it another way, "it stinks".

I've also learnt of a train service that's grown from 3,000 to 27,000 ticket sales per annum to / from Melksham, with passenger numbers on the line (for through journeys) also growing at around the same rate, reaching a high of 109,000 annual journeys. That's broadly compatable with branch lines such as Liskeard to Looe and Plymouth to Gunnislake, which - although slashed - will continue to enjoy a service we would envy after this coming December.

I've met individuals - many individuals - who will be seriously inconveninenced by a withdrawal of the train. People who have no car but will have to buy one. People who cannot drive for medical reasons who's journeys will be extended by an hour on the bus. People with prams and luggage and disabillities who find changing at Bath stressful to put it mildly. Visitors to Melksham who cannot hop off a train onto a bus at Chippenham ... where they could connect into a train.

I've learnt of local transport plans, and seen the regional spatial strategy develop. New housing going in right beside the station at Melksham, growth in Chippenham, in Trowbridge, in Westbury ... and I've read the plans that show the growth will be continuing. I've spoken to people on the train, people on the street, people on line. People who may or may not use the train much now, but who WOULD use it that much more if it was reliable, regular,the station was welcoming, and information was easily available. I have every confidence that the 27,000 ticket sales would continue to grown, compound, 25% per annum for the next 5 years given these conditions.

So why, in the face of overwhelming evidence in favour of the service, are we about to loose the majority of services and have the remaining ones retimed away from when they're needed?

1. The same commercial company runs the buses, the trains that are being cut, and the competing trains via Bath. It's a public transport monopoly, and people have no choice but put up with whatever they're given.

2. The government's railway budget is out of control, and the Department for Transport needs its little victories over minnows such as us in order to save face.

3. There's about a dozen extra freight trains a day planned along the single track line in coming years, (it depends how far you look ahead as to how the numbers rise), and there's not the capacity without signalling improvements. Better kill the service now with 109,000 journeys a year that wait until the freight capacity is required - by that time you may be up to a quarter of a million journeys a year and it would be that much harder to kill.

And so, one year on, we have the absurd situation of a real success story that's going to be killed off in a few months time. The major decision maker - the Department for Transport - continues to stonewall requests to reconsider; in a letter as recently written as last Friday, they tell me that the decison was NOT based only on a single survey that's old and questionable, but they don't go on to tell me what (other) data was used as well. From the tone of the letter, it's clearly still old evidence that the author had in mind; no doubt things like the 3,000 ticket sales the previous time the franchise was awarded.

The Department for Transport does also talk of growth assumptions made by the service specifiers in the early part of last year. Again - no details of what those assumptions were. I wonder ... I was always taught that to assume is to make an ASS out of U and ME. I don't know about me, but they've certainly made an ass out of themselves in my view.


My year's registration of the "" domain that I bought for 2 quid a year ago ... has been renewed. I'll continue to press the argued case for an appropriate TransWilts train service, and in the short term I consider that a service every 2 hours each way is appropriate. With future growth, "appropriate" may well extend to add in stops at Wootton Bassett, Lacock, Staverton / Holt, White Horse and Wilton. Service may grow to hourly, and be linked at Salisbury into the Waterloo to Salisbury service. It's a strong commercial case, both to ptovide the TransWilts service and to bring some real competition in on routes such as Chippenham to London.

Written 2006-08-14 06:39:54

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
Our battle ....
... 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?
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

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