Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Open letter to the Transport Authority - 1687/4407
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Wednesday, 21st March 2007

I was very heartened to hear Ms Fleur de-Rhe Philipe speak at last night's special council meeting at West Wilts District Council concerning the train service conencting Wiltshire's largest towns - Salisbury, Tworbridge, Chippenham, Melksham and Swindon.  Although Ms de-Rhe Philipe is the cabinet member of the county council (who are our transportation authority), so is one of the key decision makers, I've felt her past support has been muted.

But last night she stated that she felt that the Department for Transport HAD got it wrong on the "TransWilts" service, and that the number and timing of the services provided at present is inadequate. 

She went on to tell us that the county council's budget is limited and already stretched in supporting bus services, and issued something of a challenge to us to suggest which bus services we would suggest that she withdraws in order to provide funding for a train service.  But that's not a "game" I think we should play - withdrawal of bus services would be, perhaps, the most provocative possible way to fund an appropriate train service.

About a year ago, I attended a consultation exercise in Trowbridge that was asking members of the public and interested local groups how we felt the council's travel and transport budget should be spent - and what a wide range of options were on offer.  I felt out of my depth comparing road safety schemes, cycle ways, intermodal interchange improvements, and all of the rest.  And as it turns out, the purpose of that exercise in Trowbridge seemed to be to allow the council to tick a box and say they had consulted.

So please, Ms de-Rhe Philipe, look at all the options. Look at your budget for the evaluation of future road building programs that aren't funded, for example. Look at planned improvements that ... heck, there's a wide variety there. There's not necessarily a requirement for you to fund a complete train service from the COunty Council's budget.  A contribution, and a working with Swindon, with Somerset, with First, with the RDA, and with the DfT - you've a real opportunity here to turn a few wheels and help provide an appropriate service.

Re: Open letter to the Transport Authority - 1687/4413
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Wednesday, 21st March 2007

Reply just received - THANK YOU, Ms de Rhe-Phiipe

Mr Ellis

I attended last night's meeting to hear what was said and to clarify the County Council's position if given the opportunity.  In response to your comments, I would make the following points -

1 I do not accept that the County Council's support for train services in Wiltshire has been "muted".  I consider that the work undertaken by officers and the letters sent by myself and others are probably the most effective way of influencing both Government and train operators.  Your public campaign and our efforts are aimed at the same end and I hope that between us we are successful.

2 Our consultation on the distribution of Local Transport Plan funding is not a "box ticking exercise" but a genuine attempt to explain the use of these funds and reflect public priorities within the constraints laid down. 

3 The budget for the year, which has just been set for the year 2007/08, seeks to achieve best value for money and to reflect elected member and public priorities.  The major priorities are highway maintenance, waste disposal and public transport - in that order.  Your comment about expenditure to prepare road schemes presumably refers to Westbury Bypass.  My response to that is that, firstly, I consider Westbury Bypass to be extremely important both for Westbury and for the economic health of West Wiltshire as a whole.  In any event, such expenditure is classed as "capital" rather than "revenue" budget and would not be available to support public transport.

I hope the above helps to clarify my position.  I also hope that between us we can achieve improvements in the current train services and protect those we do have.

Fleur de Rhe-Philipe

Re: Open letter to the Transport Authority - 1687/4414
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Wednesday, 21st March 2007

I am delighted to have received that response, and have posted it "post-haste".  I'll take a look at the detail overnight and post comment further ... but it, certainly, would/will be a delight for us all to be rowing together to our common goal.

Re: Open letter to the Transport Authority - 1687/4427
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Thursday, 22nd March 2007

I hope the above helps to clarify my position.

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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