Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Bristol's Rail Service in Crisis - 1162/3328
Written by sennencoveuk on Monday, 22nd January 2007

Analysis and comments that were sent to FGW, MPs and others on the then proposed Dec-2006 timetable that was out for consultation in Feb-March-2006:

Bristol's Rail Service in Crisis:

Re: Bristol's Rail Service in Crisis - 1162/3335
Written by Steve35 on Tuesday, 23rd January 2007

[quote author=sennencoveuk link=topic=1162.msg3328#msg3328 date=1169501313]
Bristol's Rail Service in Crisis:

Just a comment on Alan Williams' list of stored rolling stock quoted from Modern Railways in the document above as I think it may have been slightly misinterpreted.

There *were* a lot of HST's in store after they were replaced a few years ago on Cross Country services by Virgin Voyagers. They have now, however, found new homes. Most of them will be joining First Great Western (ironically enough) which is increasing the size of it's HST fleet. This is to allow the fourteen Class 180 'Adelante' trains to go off-lease in December 2007. There are no Adelantes in store at the moment as only 14 were built and FGW operates them all.
When Alan says "Now add to those the entire Class 180 Adelante fleet which nobody appears to want to use" he is referring to when they come off lease in Dec 2007. When he says "nobody appears to want to use" he probably means nobody wants to get lumbered with them because they're so unreliable (see Modern Railways Jan 2007, page 40, reliability league table). However word has it that the DfT has already decided where the 180's are going to be used next.... so they are unlikely to end up in store.

The 442's are coming off lease from South West Trains at the moment. However they are still being sent to Ilford for overhauls which suggests that they do have a future with another TOC. Southern has been rumoured (Victoria-Brighton trains). Being electric trains they aren't suitable for FGW.

The Class 158's being released by Transpennine Express aren't in store. 14 of them transferred to FGW in 2006. 19 of them are earmarked for South West Trains which in return is sending it's 170's to Transpennine. Some 158's are still in use by Transpennine but are rumoured to be heading for Central Trains or Northern Rail.

Class 92's - these were built for the Channel Tunnel. They are very good locomotives but they are also very complicated and expensive to maintain because they have to be capable of running in the UK, the Tunnel and France. They are electric so are unsuitable for FGW.

What there *is* quite a lot of is spare Mark 3 loco-hauled coaches that used to be used on the West Coast Main Line out of Euston prior to being replaced by Pendolinos. But as they are just unpowered coaches you need locomotives to haul them. There are under-utilised Class 67 locos that would probably be available for hire from their owner EWS. But as they are designed for 125 mph high speed running they aren't too suited to, say, the Cardiff-Portsmouth service with it's frequent stops (a loco with a high top speed has poorer acceleration than a loco with a lower top speed). They also attract track access charges of 97 pence/mile (2004/5 figures) compared to 11 pence per vehicle per mile for the Class 158 units currently used on the route (i.e. 22pence/mile for a 2-car unit or 33 pence/mile for a 3-car). Then you need to add the track access cost of the coaches that the loco would be hauling (approx 10 pence per vehicle per mile). So the economics of the service would be jeopardised.  The most realistic use of the Mark 3's would be on an electrified line where they could be hauled by spare Class 90 electric locos on a route that was currently operated by diesel trains. e.g. in the December 2008 timetable the DfT is planning for the Birmingham-Carlisle-Glasgow service to be operator by diesel Voyager trains despite the entire route being electrified! The sensible solution would be to use Class 90+Mk 3's instead which would release the Voyagers for use on non-electrified lines.   

So although there is quite a large number of vehicles in store they aren't particularly suited for use on FGW. If the DfT wants to make itself useful it needs to devise a National Traction Plan which would ensure that any spare trains were used on lines they were most suited to thereby releasing other trains for use elsewhere (e.g. FGW)

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

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