Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Past, Present, Future - 1553/4179
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Tuesday, 6th March 2007

I'm posting up my notes - prepared ahead of time - for my talk at last night's meeting

"Save the Train"
TransWilts Railway Service

Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury
- Frome
-Dilton Marsh - Warminster - Salisbury

Well House Manor, 48 Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY
5th March, 2007. 19:30

1. Introduction, Route, History

        Graham Ellis
        Around room - First, County, District, Unions
                Campaigners, Businessmen, and CUSTOMERS
        Apologies - DfT, Rail Focus and many others

        Linking five largest towns in Wiltshire PLUS  Warminster and Westbury

        No Service at all, 1966 to 1985.
        Minimal restoration of commuter service
        2001 - up to 5 a day, Swindon to Southampton
        Growth - 8% to 35% depending on measure

        27500 Ticket sales to / from Melksham (ORR). 110000 Journeys per Annum

        In spite of poor station siting, infrequent service and frequent cancellation, and no marketing.

        FGW franchise consultation, Spring 2005, brought just 7 objections to withdrawal of the service and replacement by a "peak hour" train into Swindon. Background report assumed 0.8% growth and even on THAT recommended a train every 2 hours.

        Save the Train formed August 2005 in response to a  letter in the Wiltshire Times from Fleur de Rhe Philipe

2. Where are we now?

        Cuts went ahead MORE than proposed. There is no peak hour service - it's pre-peak in the am and post-peak in the evening. Very lightly loaded, and in spite of promises from Mr Griffiths and others that at least it would be more reliable, cancellation rates have exceeded  40%.  2 trains each way daily? Another lie. No Southbound Sunday service.

Trains leave Swindon at 06:19 and 18:42,  14:00 and 20:00 on Saturday and not at all on Sunday.  Commuter day is extended by 90 minutes.

No cheap buy-on-the-day fares from Melksham any more - up from under 50 pounds to over 100.

        Service is, only used by the hard pressed or hard

        Alternatives - for some, train dogleg via Bath,  for other - bus, with SOME station services.

Closure by stealth? Not if I can help it!

        Under RSS, Chippenham and Trowbridge each to grow by  5000 homes in 20 years, rest of West Wilts (probably Melksham, Trowbridge, Warminster) by 11,000. That's an  extra 50% population.

        Major flow is into Swindon. (as well as Bath / Bristol)

        Roads are at capacity. Bus is slow.

        Train use in Melksham is 1 journey per head of population per year, but in Bradford it is 20 journeys. Growth scope assured. Proof of linkage also established by the  current abbysmal use.

3. What would be an appropriate service?  Name?

        Ideally a train every hour each way, 7 days a week, with Wootton Bassett, Lacock, Staverton, White Horse and Wilton  stops (See Parkman report, May 2000).

Ideal is NOT appropriate in terms of current finances.  80 / 20 rule.

        Realistically, A single train (initially class 153, single  carriage) would do. If it grew as forecast, the it would become overcrowded within 5 years.

        Every 2 hours Swindon - Westbury OR every 3 hours Swindon - Salisbury (the $64k question).  Timing at Swindon in the  a.m. / p.m. peak is critical.

        SEE the 11 identified flows document

        Saturday and Sunday also important. 15% of travel (excl. commuting) is done on Sunday - busiest day of week - yet the railways operate poor service that day.

        4. What do we do to regain an appropriate service?

        Get all our ducks in a row.  And work TOGETHER

        DfT.  Last year at this time I was told that I  couldn't have a service just for me personally.  Now we have good responses, well thought through. (Meeting Peter West within the next week)

        First.  "Go away" and "Can't help" with slaps in  the face, like consultation inputs made and the REVERSE happening should be a thing of the past.  (Glenda L "Will be writing to me")

        County.  "No Money" but Alan Feist Letter to Dft  is a good move LTP and station safeguard victory.  I undertstand that the other  players WILL move if county can contribute 100k p.a., not to pay for service but to become a willing  stakeholder.  The day of full price needed is gone  (precedent - Falmouth, Barnstaple, Severn Beach)

        AND Melksham station improvements, AND buses via station - Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge - INTEGRATED.

        District  West Wilts are looking to working closer  with First - witness meeting coming up on 20.3.

        Town.  Bus via station.  Sign boards.

        Joe Public and FGW Customer and Wannabe Customers. Keep campaigning, use the services we have. Be vocal. MANY THANKS to the Petition

        And from Actresses and business organisations to Unions and MPs and MEPs

And the Media - I was on GWR FM today and I'm on radio Wiltshire tomorrow.  The Metro has published the whole Swindon to Westbury timetable!

        The whole group - marketing and proud of our service.

5. How do we retain the service when we have it?

        Community Rail
        Destimation Management Partnerships
        Melksham First
        MRDG, WWRUG, First Passenger Champions
        Marketing via local buisnesses
        Our own group.

        Working WITH WITH WITH

6. Looking forward - short term

        Setting up TWO group - community / official organistions

Prepared by - Graham Ellis E&OE
5th March 2007. 01225 708225 /

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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