Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Questions to the DfT - 1023/2848
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Tuesday, 9th January 2007

One of our contacts at the DfT - the Franchise manager for FGW no less - has let us know that he's ahppy to respond to questions directly asked.

Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/2854
Written by Steve35 on Tuesday, 9th January 2007

Very good letter! Must have taken ages to write.

Can I add another point? It might be interesting to ask the DfT about their passenger count data which they no doubt use to help decide what services to include in the timetable specification. I'm guessing that these figures are derived from ticket sales data but do the DfT ever do an actual physical count of passenger numbers to verify that their figures are correct? I ask this because the number of passengers travelling will always be higher than the number with tickets because of:
a) fare dodgers
b) the train conductor couldn't get through the train to sell tickets because it was so overcrowded.   
c) the conductor didn't check/sell tickets for whatever reason.

In an extreme case a local morning commuter train picking up passengers at lots of unmanned stations may be so crowded that the conductor can't sell tickets. Then, if a passenger's destination station doesn't have barriers they will most likely leave the station without paying. The result is that the ticket sales data significantly under-represents the number of passengers travelling on that train. I don't know if this applies to the FGW area in general and Melksham in particular? Do Swindon, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury have barriers?

Then there are passengers with season tickets and those making longer journeys that may involve using the TransWilts service. The latter might have a number of alternative routes available to them. The ticket sales data can't tell you that these kinds of passenger actually used the TransWilts service or which train they used so actual passenger counts are important for getting an accurate picture of passenger numbers on each train.

Also, how old is the DfT's passenger count data? Is it up to date or a couple of years old?

Given that passenger count data plays a part in deciding the service specification it is only right that the DfT has accurate data to hand. But do they...? It would be tragic if they were making decisions based on flawed data.

Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/2858
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

The DfT has supplied me with a number of counts made on train. The data has been released under FOI and I've got copies at [url][/url]. See the files "Springxxx" and "Autumnxxx".  I'll leave you to make judgement as to the thoroughness and currentness of the figures.

The Swindon - Westbury service is very accessible to wheelchair / pushchair users and I've noted a very high proportion of babes in arms on this service compared to other trains.  That's another legit case where ticket sales show low, as is rover tickets - and I have come across quite a few on Britrail passes, Severn Solent Rovers (which are excellent value) etc.  I have guestimated that between 1 in 10 and 1 in 4 passengers to or from Melksham is travelling legally, but does NOT have a "Melksham" ticket.

Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/2860
Written by WyvusArconius on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

I am (Hopefully) doing a patron count on 2 random weekdays and a Saturday & Sunday at some point in the next three weeks. I will be aiming to travel on all the relevant journeys for those days. I have already said to Graham that I will send him the results when I have completed the survey, and I will post them up here for all to see, so that we have a up to date idea on numbers.


Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/2861
Written by Sion Bretton on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

Do Swindon, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury have barriers?
None this stations have gates like at Paddington or Bristol TM.

Chippenham in AM have staff to do ticket checks
Trowbridge I never seen staff doing ticket check.
Melksham is an unmanned station.

Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/2863
Written by WyvusArconius on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

Swindon is most likely to have all day ticket checks.. though I have never seen barriers. Chippenham does indeed have an AM ticket checking crew, but anyone travelling later in the day is not checked. Trowbridge never appears to have enough staff to enforce ticket checking, so they probably dont there. Westbury has more staff than Chip, Melk and Trow... but again I am unsure as to whetever they do or not. Those unfortunate enough to have to go via Bath Spa to reach their destination will know that they are very hot up on ticket checking. However, that does not help either us or FGW establish exactly how many people use the service.


Re: Questions to the DfT - ANSWERED - 1023/3854
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Saturday, 10th February 2007

Received 8th February 2007 ...

Thank you for sharing your thorough appraisal of current issues and your views of future opportunities for the Melksham line service.

Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/3857
Written by Lee on Saturday, 10th February 2007

I agree that the Melksham issue is now receiving far more serious consideration within the DfT. However , I would like to put it on record that I have asked for clarification on Question 4. Peter West has only guaranteed the line would not close , but does not mention Melksham station.

We all know that the line itself would not close , as it is vital from a freight / express diversionary route perspective.

Re: Questions to the DfT - 1023/3913
Written by Lee on Wednesday, 14th February 2007

I have now had confirmation that the assurance given in question 4 does cover Melksham station.

This is good news , as it means that both FGW and the DfT have indicated that closure is not currently on the agenda.

Now we require a similiar assurance from Network Rail (link below.)

link to index of articles

Save the Train was the campaign to bring an approriate train service back to and through Melksham.

Most big contributors are still around writing at the Coffee shop forum where new members are very welcome.

The train has been saved - sort of - we have stepped back up from an unusable service to a poorish one but it's doing very well. We did that through setting up the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership. That fulfilled its early objectives; it has been taken over by local and regional government types who are now doing medium and long term work. The team from this forun can also be found at the Melksham Rail User Group (which was the Melksham Rail Development Group at the time these articles were written and we had no users.

We mustn't loose sight, though, that the train service remains poor and needs our community support in marketing and campaigning to keep it going in a positive direction ... and all the more so when we're expecting to find a different normallity once we get out of the Coronavirus Pandemic and head for zero carbon via the climate crisis. Yes, it's saved ... it's now a key community facility ... the need for enhancement and the strong and near-universal local support remain, and the rail industry and goverment remain slow to move and provide the enhancements even to level us up with other towns. Please support the Melksham Rail User Group - now very much in partnership rather than protest with the rail industry and local government, including GWR, TransWilts and unitary and town councils. And please use the trains and buses, and cycle and walk when you can.

-- Graham Ellis, (webmaster), February 2021

This site is hosted by Well House Consultants Ltd. (
Contact Information

Further Information:
 Current Summary
 Daily update
 User forum
 Service now
 Service future
 Future Analysis
 Recent Statistics
 Recent letters
 Letter to DfT
 Save the train
 Support us
 Other Maps
 Station facilities
 Station approach
 Trains diverted
 About Melksham
 Site Map
 About this site