Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Save the train - background and direction - 4603/8421
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Friday, 2nd November 2007

* Overview / Background

Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury - Dilton Marsh - Warminster - Salisbury train service. Nurtured from 2001 to 2006, with ticket sales at Melksham up eight fold. Latest annual passenger count - 120000.

Slashed back last December to just 2 trains a day, Estimated passengers for 2007 - 7000 (that's just 6% of the numbers who used it last year).

* Origins

Founded - August 2005. A Web site, as a result of seeing a letter in the local paper which said "do you realise you have missed the consultation for 2007 train services".

* Objectives

1. To bring the case for an appropriate train service connection the five major population centres of Wiltshire to the serious attention of those able to specify, finance and provide such a service.

2. To have the case seriously and fully evaluated in order to establish what an appropriate service actually comprises.

3. To work for the provision of such an appropriate service (includes service level, timing, pricing, reliability,booking arrangements, publicity, comfort)

4. To work for the retention of that service once achieved, and of any lesser service prior to that point both as at least some service to the curent customers, and as a stepping stone to the future.

* Outcomes

First objective (known). When we came to the case, the TransWilts service was two sentences in the middle of 100 page SRA report covering Paddington to Pembroke Dock to Penzance. Now it (and the town of Melksham, served only by the line) are much better known.

Second Objective (looked at). From an initial reaction which verged on the "don't be silly and ask for more that 2 trains a day" we moved forward to a very serious proposal for 5 a day from this December - DfT, County Council and First all on board, as confirmed by FOI. And the County Council has concluded that an appropriate level of service would be hourly each way.

Third Objective (implemented). No. Not acheived. The detailed proposals that we were almost-promised ("just needs to be signed off by Network Rail") at a public meeting in May disappeared from the draft timetable from this coming December; reasons not totally clear to me.

Fourth Objective (retention and lesser goals). We strongly suspect that in August 2006 when the service was withdrawn for 10 days that it would have returned as a bus ... as per current precedents in Staffordshire and Watford. However, publicity and activities including a gathering of VIPs on the station before six in the morning resulted in the appearance of a smarter-than-normal service.

A new southbound service, operated on a commercial basis by First Great Western, starts early on a Sunday evening in December. It's just one train a week, but it's at a time that it plugs a real hole and it's significant in demonstrating goodwill and being commercial.

Train cancellations remain a serious issue (to the extent that First have installed a special bus stop labelled "Rail Replacement services" at Trowbridge station), but we're no longer in the same class as the 07:10 Bristol to Paddington which is cancelled on around 25% of the time.

Early Morning buses from Melksham, and evening buses back, now make calls at the railway station in Chippenham. After an unbelievably hard struggle, the bus stop at the station now carries the times of those buses. They are clearly used, judging by the complaints from Chippenham taxi drivers that fares to Melksham have dried up

* Ongoing

We beleive that we have an excellent chance of moving towards an appropriate service from May or December 2008. Please add YOUR support.

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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