Save the Melksham Train
This is an archived page.
Please see [here] if you're looking for the current "Save the Train" home page.
Please see [here] for the TransWilts site.
Friday, 26th March 2010. Launch of TransWilts Community Rail Partnership. Bridge House, Trowbridge, from 19:30
An exciting new step forward to rejeuvenation of the line, its service and its use
BUSY, EXCELLENT MEETING ... see [here] for initial report
Train service remains dire - southbound from Swindon at 06:15 and 18:45, northbound from Westbury at 07:02 and 19:35. Please pledge your support if you would like to see an increase to six trains a day -
arriving Swindon at 07:48 08:53 11:50 14:50 17:36 and 20:19,
returning at 06:18 09:02 12:02 15:02 17:55 and 18:45.

Keynote for 2010

Forum archive ... Blog archive

The Story so far
The Swindon to Southampton train service was a success story for Wessex trains, the former operator of the service. They instigated the service in May 2001, and as a result ticket sales for journeys on the northern section of the root rocketed. At Melksham, where this new service of five trains each way daily replaced a twice-a-day shuttle, ticket sales have risen from just over 3,000 to over 27,000 journeys per year.

First group have swallowed up all the ex Wessex trains routes into the new Great Western Franchise, and there are cuts across the South West. The Swindon to Southampton service is to be completely scrapped and as from December, the northern section of the line will be back to its pre-2001 service level ... but with trains inconveniently timed in the early morning and in the evening - there will be NOTHING on the line between 07:30 and 18:30. This decison was confirmed by Andrew Griffiths, First's regional manager for Severn and Solent, at a packed meeting in Melksham town hall last Friday. There was no convenient train, so Andrew arrived and left by car.

In a debate in Westminster on 25th April, all four MPs with constituencies on the Swindon to Westbury section spoke out against the cuts. A rare case of cross-party agreement. And it's right for MPs to speak out - the real decision makers are civil servants at the Department for Transport in London, and at the Government office for the South West in Bristol. These people need to ride on the train, see occasions when the majority of seats taken from Melksham to Salisbury or from Westbury to Swindon, and then to try to make the same journey by alternative public transport.

Late July, and First publish a timetable that's truely inappropriate for the line - I could suggest that they're intentionally winding us up, I could suggest that they're looking to kill the service before it grows too big - perhaps to leave the line available for other traffic such as freight, I could suggest that they simply don't care, I could suggest that they've been round with their begging bowls to all the county councils and other grant givers and no-one has acceeded to their subsidy request on this service. The tragedy is, it doesn't need a subsidy beyond a year or two into the future ... and that so much damage would be done if the service was lost.

We had the Shadow Transport Secretary - Chris Grayling - in Melksham on our behalf a few weeks back. Lots of other political stuff going on. Watch this space ...

Graham Ellis runs week-long training courses in Melksham. His customers come from far and wide, with about half of them making use of public transport, and you'll often see him or a member of his team at Melksham Station meeting clients travelling from London off the 09:12 arrival, or seeing customers off onto the 17:02 to return to Bristol or Bolton or Yorkshire.

Since he learnt of the threat to the service, Graham has been running the website which is dedicated to providing information on the service, and to raise its profile so that it gets full and fair consideration. Rather than cutting the service from 5 trains a day to 2, which will inevitably lead to a dramatic loss of traffic, Graham says that the service should be increase slightly to run every 2 hours - that's 8 trains a day.

Expensive? Cost the taxpayer a lot more money? No - the cost savings planned are those of a single railway carriage, which with crew, works out around 400,000 pounds per annum. But there's current traffic of around 110,000 per year on the line (a new figure given to us by Andrew Griffiths in the last few days) most of which would be lost with the cuts. In other words, the government and operator saves 400,000 pounds, but also looses 400,000 pounds of income.
That's not the whole story, though. West Wiltshire, through which the line passes, is one of the most rapidly growing areas in the whole country. Right beside Melksham station, Bloor homes are currently building new houses and a large new Estate has been planned across the town too. The land formerly occupied by the Oil Depot at Melksham station is up for sale by the British Rail Residuary Body ... and will probably be filled with yet more homes.

Melksham's story of growth is being repeated in Chippenham, in Westbury, in Trowbridge and in Warminster. Many of the new residents will be working in another town in West Wilts, or in Swindon. All served by the Swindon to Southampton train. The alternative transport - via the A350 road - is already choked with traffic for much of the day, and it's little wonder that Wiltshire County Council's plans show the corridor and railway service as being of strategic importance.

Forecasts show that a two-hourly train service would continue to grow traffic levels at the same rate they've risen since 2001 for a number of years to come. Bradford-on-Avon, a neighbouring town that's half the size of Melksham but with an hourly train service sells 10 times the number of tickets sold for Melksham. Surveys taken at Chippenham station show a significant proportion of car park users driving in from Melksham, Calne and Malmesbury rather than relying on public transport door to door; with an appropriate train service, those car journeys from Melksham at least would be reversed - these customer are clearly happy to use a rail service.
If you would like to help raise the profile of the Swindon to Southampton train service, please write to your local and county concillors, to your MP, to First group in Swindon, to the Department for Transport in London and to Richard Bayly at the Government offices for the South West at Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EH.

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