Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Why are current trains at such silly times? - 5351/9568
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Monday, 21st January 2008

Here's something I wrote elsewhere - probably worth reproduing it on our main board too, as many newcomers may wonder at the current passenger-unfriendly timing of the TransWilts train service.

[quote]what are there reasons for not running the morning train a hour later and the evening one an hour earlier though - surely they would get more ticket sales[/quote]

Yes, they would sell more tickets, but they would also need to spend a lot (a LOT) more money. I'm going to get a bit technical / financial to complete the story

Although the line had 5 passenger services and 120000 journeys made per annum (Figures from FGW) in the last year before it was cut back (2006), the francise specification was based on a much lower traffic - perhaps a third of that - and a forecast growth rate of just 0.8% from the SRA.  First didn't really do their homework, it seems, and neither did the SRA / DfT nor the line's users. 

Let's do some sums based on that assumption:

40,000 journeys a year - income = 120,000 pounds (that's taking an average fare of 3 pounds). Hire of train - at least 200,000, extra crew for 2 peak services, another 250,000. Fuel, maintainance, etc - you're looking at a total expense of over half a million pounds for an income of 120,000, which you can cut to perhaps 100,000 pounds if you use a train from another line in "marginal time" - time that it's simply not required / going to be used anywhere.  Traffic has shrunk to - I guess - around 10000 journeys, so income 30000 pounds. So that's a loss of 70,000 rather than a loss of 380,000 on paper.

Actually - many of the passengers still pay First - rather than spend 3 pounds on the train (25 minutes, Melksham to Swindon), they leave Melksham on First's buses and pay a fare on there (95 minutes with a change by bus from Melksham to Swindon). Or they drive to another station and pay 4.50 to park their car for the day - I'm sure that's a better profit for FGW than running a train.  Passengers from further south make a dogleg journey via Bath instead - adds about 20 minutes to their journey on a good day, and the sky's the limit on a bad day. So the TOC is laughing all the way to the bank ... and it wouldn't even make strictly economic sense for them to hire an extra train for just two properly time round trips even if every seat was taken. And bu**er the [s]customer[/s] passenger.

You see what a funny world it is? This service has been worked out to service the specification, not the passengers.  It's not QUITE as bleak as it seems though - First, the DfT and the local transport authority have now all agreed that there is a very strong case indeed for an appropriate service of as much as 1 train per hour; we won't get there easily, but we may - just may - get a step or two or two nearer this coming December.  It's amazing what a difference a growth rate that's estimated at 0.8% but turns out to be well over 10% can make!

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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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