|Six NEW factors why the TransWilts train that serves Melksham should be enhanced and not cut
1. Ticket sales from and to Melksham station (served only by trains on that route) rose from 20390 in 2003-2004 to 27485 in 2004-2005 - that's a 35% increase in tickets
2. Weekend and offpeak use of the line has increased. As a long standing user of this service, I have felt that it has been getting busier. When I became aware of the proposed new frachise service level, I noted down some current figures and can tell you that weekend services I have used in the last couple of months have conveyed 35 and 22 passengers respectively.
3. The local transport plan for Wiltshire puts this line at the heart of its rail strategy. "The Swindon / West Wilts / Southampton service should be developed as it has considerable potential to help relieve local transport and environmental problems". It is my understanding that this strategy was being revised at the same time as the franchise bid levels, and so it may not have been considered when the levels were being set for the bid requests.
4. Consultations and Invitation to tender for the franchise were concurrent activities, so there was little or no stakeholder input into the proposed service levels. (Indeed, there were discussions held as to how consultations might be minimised) Such input has now become more available and should be considered. The fact that no input was received at a time that no input had been requested cannot be used to draw the conclusion that the local community does not care about the rail service! See next point.
5. I became aware as a private individual, and operator of a local business in Melksham, of the proposed level of service from a newspaper article in August, and it came as a surprise. In order to gauge support along the travel corridor of the railway, I wrote to the local paper and put up a web site (ref 6). In the following month, some 500 different people visited the web site and some 60 went to the trouble of completing forms of support to add their name to the cause. A meeting called with little publicity - and by me as a private individual - drew some 30 people to a meeting with a similar number of apologies received.
6. Business and housing development in Melksham, the removal or reduction of medical facilities at the intermediate towns served and their concentration at the end of this railway line, and the building of the County record office at Chippenham (as an offshoot of the council which is based in Trowbridge, also on the route) are all recent factors that will lead to a continued growth of use of this railway service over the next year ... and beyond should the service still be offered.
*** All of the above came to light AFTER the Strategic Rail Authority drew up their Invitition to Tender with the through services on the West Wilts route totally withdrawn.
*** These are additions to the other good reasons already listed for saving the service - see main web site
*** There IS a variation mechanism in place under which the Department for Transport can vary the level of service to be provided at the preferred bidder stage, or after the award
Written 2005-10-07 08:13:45
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