Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
A Hatrick of Disappointment - 4667/8517
Written by courgettelawn on Thursday, 8th November 2007

I'm really quite lucky..  All three of my most recent trips using FGW services have either been severely delayed or cancelled.

Today being the third.  I awaited the 1810 Southampton to Salisbury service (onto Cardiff).  Cancelled due to Crew Shortages.

I awaited the next 1827 Southampton to Salisbury service (onto Cheltenham Spa via Melksham and Chippenham).  Cancelled due to a member of staff not 'available' at Westbury.

I finally got on the 1840 which ran 15 minutes late by the time it reached Salisbury owing to extra stops at Dunbridge Mottisfont and Dean.

On returning home I found a letter from FGW regarding the first of the three cocked up journeys I have recently made.  Let me quote the last sentence:

"Once again I am sorry for the disruption to your journey.  I hope than whenever you travel with us it will be completely trouble free."


Re: A Hatrick of Disappointment - 4667/8687
Written by courgettelawn on Monday, 19th November 2007

Here is the response from FGW to my complaint about the above-described journey and one on a previous Saturday where we were forced to quickly get on a very delayed train as two of the subsequent ones were cancelled.  It is a sympathetic reply but did not answers three direct questions I had posed:

1) What is the cause for persistent train crew shortages?
2) What exactly happened on these journeys to cause the cancellations and delays?
3) How is it to be addressed?

Response via email 16 November 2007.
Thank you for your email of 13 November 2007. I was sorry to learn of the delays you have encountered when travelling between Salisbury and Southampton Central. I understand the frustration and inconvenience that this must have caused.

We are determined to provide a safe and reliable service and are making progress in dealing with delays but we recognise that there are areas where we need to do better.

On 3 November, the 1447 service was cancelled due to mechanical problems. As part of our service recovery plan, we are introducing additional mobile engineers. This will mean that mechanical problems will be rectified more quickly and fewer services will need to be cancelled. We are also replacing our HST engines as part of our refresh programme. These are more reliable, as well as being more environmentally friendly. In addition their improved acceleration will mean we are more quickly able to return to full speed should we be delayed by speed restrictions.
[Note: no reason given for the 1430 that was also cancelled and the woefully delayed 1408 that we were herded onto]

As you were unable to buy your chosen tickets or obtain a railcard discount, I am happy to offer you Rail Travel Vouchers as a gesture of goodwill to cover the difference in ticket cost. So that we award this, please forward your original journey tickets to the address above quoting the reference number provided.

[ :)]

I understand that you were told the 1810 [13 Nov]service was cancelled due to staff shortages; our records show it was cancelled due to another late running service. We are aware that services are sometimes delayed or cancelled due to staff shortages. We do have "spare" staff and wherever possible they will replace the rostered crew. As part of our updated service recovery plan, we are increasing the number of stand by Train Managers and Drivers in the London Thames Valley area. This will reduce the need to cancel a service, as more back up staff will be available.

Despite these measures, there will be some occasions when we are unable to provide replacement staff at short notice.

[In fact as we all know there are more than 'some' occasions this has happened recently]

Our Passengers' Charter explains that the compensation you have requested is only available when you are delayed by more than 59 minutes and I regret that it is not due on this occasion. We view the failure to provide any aspect of our advertised service with concern and I have logged your comments, which will be reported to the appropriate managers.

I can assure you that we welcome all customer feedback and thank you once again for bringing this matter to our attention.

Re: A Hatrick of Disappointment - 4667/8690
Written by Industry Insider on Monday, 19th November 2007

[quote author=courgettelawn link=topic=4667.msg8687#msg8687 date=1195461977]
We are also replacing our HST engines as part of our refresh programme. These are more reliable, as well as being more environmentally friendly. In addition their improved acceleration will mean we are more quickly able to return to full speed should we be delayed by speed restrictions.

They don't half pad these letters out with a load of bollocks, don't they! Whilst the new engines are indeed more environmentally friendly and more reliable, this is mainly because the power output from them has been derated so that it is the same as the old engines they are replacing so there's no 'improved acceleration' at all - the only slight improvement (and I do mean slight) will come from the reduction in some sets from 8 trailers to 7.

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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