Save the Melksham Train
News Roundup - a LOT is happening

This is an overdue update and I don't know where to start!

Gordon Dodge, such a big supporter and so much more, passed away in April. He's left some shoes that will be very hard to fill; I have posted a tribute on the "Save the Train" web site. And his passing has made me, and others, all the more determined to push for an appropriate train service from West and South Wiltshire up to the North of the country and Swindon, incorporating a service fit for use in Melksham, where the station has the lowest ridership per head of population in the county. That's partly down to the infrequent, badly timed and unreliable trains, and partly due to issues to do with the station's accessability.

I've started with Gordon, and the issues. And, incredibly, I see the tide starting to turn. Much of the following news comes from the AGM of the Melksham Railway Development Group last night, and as such is in the public domain.

1. After the Save the Train meeting in March, the County Council has agreed to set up an 'experts / professionals' group to push the service provision issue ahead, and this will be chaired by Fleur de Rhe Philipe. I also have a positive letter from Dr Keith Robinson, the chief executive, who I met in person recently.

2. The Department for Transport are now looking very seriously at improving the service - I spent well over an hour on the phone with one of the top civil servants, and I understand that he and several colleagues have had further long meetings with the local transport authority. The answer that *I* got (and the concensus) is no longer to tell me that the current service is appropriate, but to acknowledge that it's not working and needs major positive amendment.

3. At the AGM of the Melksham Rail Development Group (yesterday evening), Andrew Griffiths of First Great Western told that FGW have no extra resources to make available from this December, BUT they have worked up a draft timetable that would take out 3 duplicated trains south of Salisbury (the Southampton stoppers that would, if they remained, double up on the new SWT local service) and use those trains instead to run from Salisbury up to Swindon and back. I've not seen details, but I understand it looks excellent for the morning, and unravels a bit later in the day. Andrew confirmed crew shortages - that even if they hired another train, they would not have the drivers, who it takes a year to train. Andrew also confirmed that extra freight is using the line via Melksham, and that this could start to limit available paths for passenger trains

[[Aside - I applaud First in pushing this timetable forward, the DfT in their new and serious look, and the County for their actions and help too. All acknowledge this as being a step in the right direction rather than a final solution - perhaps that will come at December 2008?]]

4. There have been discussions between the officers of the Melksham Railway Development Group and the Save the Train campaign, as the activities of the two could be seen to be converging. We're working in close co-operation (I have taken on the role of Vice Chairman at MRDG, confirmed at the AGM), and of course Peter Blackburn - chair of MRDG - is vice of Save the Train. The groups are, though, and will remain distinct. "Save the Train" is very much concerned with train service across Wiltshire and Mendip whereas the MRDG, as the name implies, is very much Melksham based and extends from the service to the envoirs of the station too.

5. The Melksham Railway Development Group has submitted a bid for lottery funding to complete the road from Spencer's Gate to the station in Melksham. This would provide a circular route via the station over land already reserved for the purpose and allow bus services such as Melksham' s town bus to connect with trains. It would also easier access to the station from North Melksham, and bring a restraurant and conveninence store within a short walk for traveller's use. The bid is via "The People's Millions" - an ITV show where the shortlisted bidders are showcased and the winner is selected by public vote.

6. Asda have announced that they plan to open a new store in Melksham, at West Country Farmers (that shop will remain, though). This offers a good opportunity to work with the store to provide rail access and facilities for the mutual benefit of their customers and railway users, and I understand that the company has a good reputation for being a community player.

7. A suggestion that we run a seaside special this summer from Swindon / Chippenham / Melksham to Weymouth - perhaps by extending the first Sunday train from Westbury - has been declared a non-starter by First who have no capacity for specials, even at the weekend. We are currently investingating whether we can arrange a coach for a part yo join that train at Westbury, leaving from melksham station and returning to there by train at the end of the day.

8. There is every intention of running a Santa special this December; although advised to plan well ahead and use the current service, we don't feel its practical on the limited trains available (21:38 is too late to get the kids back to Melksham, and what WOULD they do through the early evening?). So this will probably be a last minute planning job.

9. MRDG now has a website - - and a subcommittee will be working on content and publicity. Key subjects will be the lottery bid, the station's history and other Melksham Specific issues.

10. I have JUST (in the last couple of hours!) booked a table for the two campaigns at Melksham's "Party in the Park" on 14th July. We'll have a 5m x 3m pitch ("a lot of space") to put the case; I'm happy to be on the stand all day (open from 2 p.m. to "fireworks") and would be delighted to have any other VOLUNTEERS - please - along ;-). Excellent chance for publicity. Other events are fastmoving at the moment; we'll see if we're selling seats to Weymouth, congratulating the decision makers and publicising the new services to come, or handing people postcards to lobby with!

11. Sion has agreed (I think - you did agree, didn't you Sion?) to join the committee of the West Wilts Rail Users Group in order that they have a continuing voice / input from Melksham. I was delighted to see their new Chairman, John Ingram, along at yesterday's meeting - we're all pushing very much in the same direction.

12. Wiltshire County Council have provided extra subsidy / support to Stagecoach for the X49 bus service (Trowbridge to Swindon) which last year carried roughly the same number of passengers as used the train (WCC press release figures for bus, FGW's for train). It is good to see the county's acknowledgement of the importance and growth of this corridor. The bus takes 95 minutes and serves neither Melksham nor Chippenham; the train takes just 35 minutes. I applaud the County's decision - it should make a decision to support the train too into a no-brainer. Although the support for a train seat is said to cost three times what it costs to support a bus seat, the train is 3 times faster so that makes it a level playing field, doesn't it?

13. Some fares (including Melksham - Chippenham and Melksham - Swindon) have recently been LOWERED. This means that a Chippenham to Melksham single is now just 2.80. The lowest return fare offered to London if you book on the day / train remains 105.00. For booking ahead, the FGW site lists 20 different single fares - most of them "book ahead" and with very limited availability. These tickets must be posted (extra charge) or collected ahead of time from a ticket machine at Chippenham (or other more distant) station.

14. Melksham's Tourist Information Centre has put in a lottery bid to become a transport hub - allowing it to sell a wide variety of travel tickets (rail tickets too - PLEASE - including the "book ahead" ones I have just mentioned.


There's a lot happening!

I would like to thank all the officers / officials / politicians / Rail Industry people involved in all the thread above, and I'll be circulating this to them as a courtesy copy, and to show them just how the community is behind this - to regain AND RETAIN an APPROPRIATE service.

Feedback / comments / information welcome. You'll find more on much of this on the "Save the Train" website at and in due course I'm sure the Melksham elements will also appear on

And THANK YOU for your support / continuing help


Written 2007-06-09 18:51:47

Available entries ...

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