Save the Melksham Train
Melksham and TransWilts train service - closure by stealth?

* Melksham is a town with a population of over 20,000 and growing - there's much new construction in the area and a further 750 house development was approved just last month.

* Melksham is served by five trains a day (slightly fewer at weekends) on the Swindon to Southampton service, and ticket sales have grown steadily from 3200 per year (five years ago) to 27435 last year. That's a seven fold increase. For every passenger who joins or leaves a train, 3 or 4 stay on (personal observation of all trains on a single day).

* The request for bids for the new Greater Western Franchise calls for the current service of 68 trains a week to be replaced by just 20 trains a week with a commuter run to Swindon in the morning, back in the late afternoon, and a round trip during the evening.

* This "proposed" new service is due to come into effect in December 2006.

Consultation has been poor and I believe that local requirements / suggestions have not been taken into account. It should be a "no brainer" that a service that's grown this rapidly should be encouraged and nurtured but the reverse seems to be the case.

Government actions:

1. The bid request announced the proposed withdrawal of the service in one line on 32 of a long document. No reason was given.

2. Consultations on what should be in the bid were held AT THE SAME TIME as the invitation to tender was issued, so that responses could not effect the initial bid process though - perhaps - they can now effect the fine tuning of the contract awarded.

3. The Department for Transport consulted with the Strategic rail authority and discussed how consultation could be minimised. (Information obtained under Freedom of Information).

4. Although the bidding process is running quickly, the Department for Transport is very slow to answer questions. I'm still waiting for a reply to a letter of 5th October, for example. The Department wrote to my MP on 8th November telling him that Roger Jones would reply ... I still await that reply.

5. Such replies as we HAVE received consistently tell us that traffic levels are low and that's why the service is being reduced, but requests to define what is meant by low traffic levels have never been answered. Ticket sales for Melksham are higher than for many other stations - even termini such as Wick and Fishguard rank lower.

It looks rather like the planned new service has been dreamed up to run a service without having a train assigned to the line at all. An early service will go up to Swindon in the morning and the stock will run the Swindon to Cheltenham service during the day. It will come back in the evening and provide an extra train as - perhaps - a token gesture; the current evening train is the least used of the day and I can only think that the new service proposed is for operational reasons rather than passenger level reasons.

The current operating environment:

1. Trains on the Swindon to Westbury and Southampton line always seem to be the first to be cancelled. I know of 5 services (that's 7%) in the last week, yet Wessex Trains clain to run over 99% of their services.

2. Northbound through trains to Southampton have already been cut back to Westbury (although Southbound ones are most still through services).

3. Waits of up to 27 minutes have been introduced into schedules of the remaining through trains at Westbury. As from 11th December, there's even a service that's scheduled to sit at Melksham station for 10 minutes.

4. The morning train from Westbury to Swindon was retimed to run 20 minutes earlier making it much less attractive for people working in that town - it just gets there too early.

5. In the event of engineering works or accident on nearby mainlines, the service through Melksham is delayed or withdrawn. We were without local trains (apart from the 05:52 to Swindon and 06:56 to Southampton) for 2 weeks in August 2004, for example. Requests to stop the expresses which have to slow right down for the curve through the station were rejected.

6. Connections at Swindon are NOT held so that anyone travelling from London will find that there's no onward train available in the event of a delay on the main line. That's happened twice (to my knowledge) just to the afternoon train in the last 2 weeks.

7. Some connections at Westbury are truely dreadful. It's now impractical to make a return journey on what used to the main line from Weymouth unless you leave there just after lunch. The one later train leaves you stranded for 2 and a half hours at Westbury. The 06:56 to Southampton which should provide a good connection to a London train at Westbury misses the connection
by 3 minutes.

8. For 8 weekends recently, the trains were replaced by buses from Westbury right through to Swindon even though the works were limited to / on the Westbury to Bristol stretch. I know that work was being done at Bradford on Avon and at Keynsham on some weekends (neither on our line), and question whether our service really had to be suspended of if it was just stopped as an operating convenience.

9. Although goverment and operator talk a great deal about the Swindon commuter run (probably because they're saving that element), in practise much of the traffic on the line is long distance and oddball journeys. On a recent day, travellers questioned were making journeys that included to/from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, South Wales and London. I can also document recent journeys ... York, Bolton, Colchester, Edinburgh. I estimate that such journeys make up a good proportion (perhaps even 50%) of the traffic.

The station at Melksham:

1. There's no public telephone as there is supposed to be at every station; Wesses trains have a special dispensation NOT to provide one.

2. Timetables are part of a complex table and don't show the connections that people want to London, Bath and Bristol.

3. Signage is poor and the stations' in the back of an industrial estate which discourages timid travellers.

4. Interchange to bus services in non-existant. Even though buses pass the end of the station approach, they don't stop anywhere nearby and they are timed such that they do not connect.


1. First Group's publicity suggests catching a bus to Melksham from Chippenham if you're coming by train - even though that's a walk across Chippenham whereas the connecting train leaves from the same platform.

2. Wessex trains make little mention of the line in their publicity and include it only in a complex timetable that doesn't show the journeys that many people want to make. The new timetable handout from 11th December still wasn't available (at Temple Meads, Bristol) on 5th.

3. Q Jump (on line booking - part of can't find the service to Melksham (I've had this reported several times and had to assure people that there really IS a train).

4. National Rail Enquiries could only off the advise that "the next train is at 21:33" when I asked them for alternative suggestions when the 17:02 to Swindon was cancelled last Thursday.

5. The West Wiltshire Public Transport timetable that used to be issued regularly was replaced by a BUS timetable recently, so it no longer shows the train service.

What call is there for service?

Speak to people in Melksham and they'll tell you

1. They would use the service if it was more reliable
2. They would use the service if it was more frequent
3. They would use the service if it the station was improved
4. They would use the service if they knew about it!

A recent survey by the county council at Chippenham Station estimated that some 70 people a day from Melksham drive to Chippenham and park there to go on the train. That probably makes more money in car parking charges than they would get from having everyone on the train!

The platforms at Chippenham are signalled for two way working and trains can be / have been reversed there. With a single 153 running an hourly shuttle from Chippenham to Westbury, I estimate that traffic levels would increase a further 3 fold. I encourage research to prove (or otherwise) this estimate

In other words ... if only the mandrins actually LOOKED at the service and situation and allowed the provision of something appropriate, it would really work out logistically, environmentally and even financially.

On 13th November, I invited Roger Jones, divisional manager from franchies at the department for transport, to visit the line for himself. I've yet to receive a reply.

Written 2005-12-06 07:13:09

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
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Keeping the campaign tail up
Don't drink and drive - drink and train.
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Latest official answer
At Temple Meads today
From the rumour mill
A Quandry
Santa Claus at Melksham Station
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Greater Western Franchise awarded
First Group - First answer on Melksham
First specific Melksham rumour ...
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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
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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
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What SWPTUF says
Meeting, 21st - notes
Parliamentary Debate, 25th April
First back down or buses too.
Diary Date - 12th May
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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?
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
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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
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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
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Milk producers
Meeting Season
The heart says "public transport", the head forces car
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Senseless service - could become sensible
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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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