The Sad Story of the Loss of Train Services on the TransWilts Line

Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury - Warminster - Salisbury

Train services under Wessex trains - 68 services per week.
Some issues under Wessex with reliability of service, but timings good.

Train services as now provide by First group - just 26 services per week.
Dreadful cancellation record, and with trains timed to operator's convenience.

Growth rate under Wessex trains - between 10% and 35% compound per Annum
Decline rate under First - we estimate that 95% of the business has been lost
Each lost passenger is lost revenue for First, an inconvenienced ex-customer, and another car clogging the roads

There's a need for good public transport linking these towns - now commonly acknowledged.

A Question for Andrew Griffith, Regional Manager, FGW

At the tail end of 2005, First put in a bid at the DfT's request for an appropriate service on the TransWilts. Without the full facts, they costed it so high that it was rejected.

For the 2006 timetable changes, First solicited customer feedback and there were a lot of inputs concerning the TransWilts, suggesting that 08:00 was too early for the only morning arrival in Swindon, and 18:30 too late for the balancing departure. So First moves the 08:00 back even earlier, and moved the 18:30 even later.

"We can have another look for December 2007" we were told, and indeed you, and other parties have put a great deal of time and effort into looking, and that effort is enormously appreciated. However, in the current draft weekday timetable you're showing no extra trains, and you've even moved the morning train a couple of minutes earlier and the evening train a few minutes later.

"Talk to us about December 2008" say First. I had a breakfast meeting with First directors Tom Stables and Glenda Lamont in August, and they were suggesting that we should all be working together for the return of an appropriate service in December 2008. Tom spoke of the extra trains in the South West to cover the refurbishment program which should be available from that date, and we have been encouraged to go along withh this plan and help put a further case together, even though there have been questions as to First's sincerity based on the appalling lack of results and slaps in the face listed above.

This morning, I was shocked to read that your Regional Manager for the west, Julian Crow, has told customers in the Exeter area that the promised new trains will only be with FGW for a couple of years, so are not undergoing a refurbishment. These are the trains that, it had been suggested, could provide the appropriate TransWilts service in 14 months time.

Andrew, public transport across Wiltshire is crying out for an appropriate service. "Express" buses that take 3 times as long as the train won't cut it, and the six towns along the TransWilts corridor are all set to grow as SSTCs under the government's plan - I think that's a unique growth profile for the whole of the South West. Indeed - I understand that First ARE restoring a single southbound Sunday service, as a commercial operation, and I applaud the company in this investment in the travel corridor.

Clearly it is in everyone's interest to come up with a reliable, properly timed service on all 7 days of the week across this county. In view of the long and frustrating history of dashed hopes, and the new news about the 142s no longer being available beyond September 2009, can you please tell this meeting why we should trust First to provide a rail service in anything but minimal name from Trowdridge to Swindon, from Salisbury to Chippenham, or between Melksham and anywhere, and how we can best work with you to ensure that we get a real service and not just further examples of you "managing our expectations" to quote a phrase used by one of your fellow train arranging experts.

Prepared by "Save the Train" campaign. 9th October 2007.

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