|Last Week - Press Release
** Train Service to be withdrawn as from this weekend without adequate alternative
This weekend sees the end of most train services on the Swindon - MELKSHAM - Westbury route, leaving Melksham (population 24,000) without weekday daytime or commuter trains.
The last commuter train out of Melksham leaves this Friday at 17:02 (for Swindon) and returns from Swindon at 17:43. There are usually around 20 to 30 passengers on the train up to Swindon, and about twice that number on the return journey.
As from Monday, 11th December the passengers from Melksham for Swindon will have to catch the 16:47 or 18:03 buses, and walk across Chippenham to the train station to continue their journey to Swindon. A journey that takes 25 minutes this week will take 83 minutes next (16:47 bus, 17:12 into Chippenham, 17:55 train, 18:10 Swindon).
Members of the press are very welcome to ride on the 17:02 from Melksham on 8th December and 17:43 return to cover this withdrawal of service. Some local campaigners who are also regular users will be on the service, and First group have been invited to send a representative to explain to passengers how the new services (very early morning and mid evening only) meet their customer's needs.
On Saturday, 9th December Santa Claus will be on board the 17:00 Saturday train to Swindon and he'll be back in Melksham at 18:16.
Under the Greater Western Frnchise, the Department for Transport specified that the Swindon to Southampton train service should be withdrawn. Service on the Southampton to Westbury section is provided by other services. On Westbury to Swindon, just two trains are to be run which the First group, who sucessfully bid for the franchise, are choosing to operate in what is described as "marginal" time - i.e. at a time that's convenient to the operator when their trains are not required elsewhere. The new (and only) trains that serve Melksham will leave Swindon at 06:19, and return there at 20:20.
The "TransWilts" service is the only train service that has linked the North and South of the county, connecting the largest towns in the country which are Swindon, Salisbury, Trowbridge, Chippenham, Warminster and Melksham. All of these towns are expected to grow over the next 20 years, with the Regional Spatial Strategy forecasting 15000 new homes in West Wilts alone - that's an increase at Melksham (for example) from 24,000 to 34,000 residents by 2026.
The A350 corridor, which serves this route, is congested with bottlenecks in and out of Swindon, around Chippeham, through the village of Beanace, through the Northern part of Melksham, and through Westbury.
Use of the train service has grown dramatically over the past 5 years - ticket sales from and to Melksham grew from 3000 per annum 5 years ago to 27400 in the latest published figures Trains that once were quiet are now busy, with 110000 journeys made on the service annually. We understand from paper revealed under FOI (Freedom of Information) legistlation that the decison to withdraw the service was based on a growth forcast of between 0.8% and 1.7%, and old (so low) data, but never the less came down in favour of a service
to run every 2 hours.
First indicated to the Department for Transport that they would be willing to provide an appropriate service for an extra 300,000 pounds per year (that should be set against their overall bid on 1,100,000,000 pounds for the Greater Western Franchise), but the Department for Transport failed to take up this element. They have also been in discussions with Wiltshire County Council, for whom the train service on the A350 corridor is a key element in the local transport plan.
"TransWilts" trains are wheelchair friendly, but alternatives such as a change of train in Bath or a transfer to and from the bus across Chippenham are impractical for the disabled, those with pushchairs or heavy luggage.
This press release issued by Graham Ellis, who has been campaiging through "Save the Train" for this service, which is vital to his business and the livelyhood of the community of Melksham too.
Graham may be reached on 01225 708225 or via email - firstname.lastname@example.org
404, The Spa, Melksham, SN12 6QL
Written 2006-12-05 13:22:47
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