Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
South to North - TransWilts: Response from FDRP - 4118/7730
Written by courgettelawn on Friday, 21st September 2007

Response from Cllr. Fleur de Rhe-Philipe regarding difficulties travelling south to north, see thread below:

Thank you for your email dated 15 August 2007.

While I appreciate the difficulties you have in travelling by public
transport from Salisbury to Chippenham, I can assure you that the County
Council is playing its full part in seeking to improve accessibility and
essential public transport services in Wiltshire.

In terms of buses, about two-thirds of services in Wiltshire are
provided commercially by the operators particularly in Salisbury and on
the major inter-urban routes during the working day.  Elsewhere, and at
other times of the day or week, a very substantial proportion of
services rely on financial support from the County Council.  This is not
an insignificant commitment by the County Council as tender costs are
continuing to increase at a faster rate than inflation and this puts a
lot of pressure on the Council's budgets.

To cater for intra-Wiltshire bus journeys, the County Council has set-up
its Key Bus Route Network (KBRN) which links the main centres within and
outside the County.  Capable of sustaining, within realistic financial
limits, a service frequency of a least one bus per hour during weekday
daytimes, they seek to make a significant contribution to the aim of
providing public transport that is frequent and attractive enough to be
seen as an alternative to the private car.  In addition, as we realise
that people such as yourself are encountering difficulties making trips
that cross Wiltshire, we are seeking to improve through ticketing
arrangements, interchanges and timetable integration with other KBRN
services and rail services.

With regard to train services in Wiltshire, all of these are provided by
either First Great Western or South West Trains.  Financial support for
rail services is provided by the Government although the County Council
does seek to influence the services that are provided - indeed, we have
recently been liaising with First Great Western and the Department for
Transport to improve the train service on the Melksham line.  While the
general level of train services in Wiltshire remains above
pre-privatisation levels, the improvements made to local and regional
services now seem to be being cut back for central Government policy and
financial reasons.

As you may know, the Secretary of State for Transport has decided to
hold a local public inquiry to consider all the relevant aspects of the
proposed Westbury Bypass.  From the County Council's point of view, the
Westbury Bypass will give motorists greater certainty over journey times
on the regionally significant A350 and improve transport links for local
businesses.  It will also remove heavy through traffic that severs the
town centre and inhibits walking and cycling.  Ultimately, the
construction of the bypass will provide the opportunity to make Westbury
town centre a more accessible (especially to non-car users), healthy and
vibrant centre that is easy to get to, pleasant to visit and the 'hub'
of community life.

Finally, the County Council and Swindon Borough Council undertook a
comprehensive options review of the location of the new Wiltshire and
Swindon History Centre, and have since implemented a number of
transport-related improvements in the local area of Chippenham where it
is located.

I hope you find this helpful and would assure you that we are supporting
public transport to the highest level our very constricted budgets will

Yours sincerely,

Fleur de Rhe-Philipe

Re: South to North - TransWilts: Response from FDRP - 4118/7737
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Friday, 21st September 2007

... the County Council does seek to influence the services that are provided - indeed, we have recently been liaising with First Great Western and the Department for Transport to improve the train service on the Melksham line.  While the general level of train services in Wiltshire remains above pre-privatisation levels ...

The choice of the date of privatisation - 1st April 1994 - in an interesting benchmark and statistically convenient to indicate that services have not got worse.   

But hang on - haven't the numbers of passengers increased since those days? Yes - they have.  According to the Association of Train Operating Companies On average, around 3.2 million journeys are made on the rail network every day. Passenger journeys have increased by more than 50% since 1995/6.   So really it's pretty poor form to say that service levels have remained static, isn't it?

And hang on again ... The ATOC page also tells us that In 2006, the railways saw growth in passenger numbers accelerating to 6.7%, up from 3.1% in 2005. whereas 2006 saw a 60% DECREASE in passenger services across the county, on the watchful eye of the lady who wrote you that letter, Courgettelawn.

And hang on a third time.  Ticket sales for journeys to and from Melksham 5 years ago - circa 3000 per annum.  One year ago - circa 27,000 per annum.  Again, it would have been pretty piss-poor to have a flat (unimproved) service provided ... but actually the County Council, the Department for Transport, Network Rail and the Train Operator have, between them, managed to take a great leap backwards.

[color=purple]Have you heard the saying "Lies, Damed lies and Statistics".    You are being fed a load of statistics.[/color]

I may appear to be harsh and negative in that post. Actually there are good people - VERY good people - who are appalled by what has been done to the train service hereabouts, and effect of that action on the community and economy around.  And some of these people work for the players I have mentioned.

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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