Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1715
Written by Lee on Tuesday, 24th October 2006

The new DfT Closure Guidance comes into effect from 1st December 2006 (link below.)

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1725
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Wednesday, 25th October 2006

That page states:

All alternatives are considered

A full consultation takes place and that this includes passenger groups

The current and future impact on passengers are considered as well as the safety, economic and environmental costs or benefits

In contrast with current procedures, where the Secretary of State determines closure proposals, the independent Office of Rail Regulation must be satisfied that a robust economic analysis has been performed.

I see it's heavy on the "considered", "consulted" and "analysis performed", but says nothing about the outcome of those consultantions, analyses and considerations forming any part of the decision - in other words, they can be just a paper exercise.

For example, if

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1739
Written by Lee on Thursday, 26th October 2006

Yes , Graham , I am afraid it does.

Here is a link to a January 2006 article by Christian Wolmar on the new DfT Closure Guidance.,06.shtml

Quotes from the above link :

"An army of consultants will decide whether lines should stay open or close. A law passed last year has reduced the right of passengers to object to closures."

"The 83-page consultation paper uses a new kind of cost-benefit analysis, which, experts say, will highlight the economically fragile state of the network. Such analysis often penalises trains because it fails to take into account that they are environmentally friendly. As one senior rail industry figure put it last night: "The trouble with consultants is they will do exactly what ministers want them to do."

Jacobs Consultancy would be front - runners to perform this task. Here is a link to the Greater Western Franchise Replacement Outline Business Case Report.

Jacobs recommended for progression or further work , closure or "parliamentary service" options for the following stations :

Islip , Bicester Town , Tackley , Heyford , Kings Sutton , Combe , Finstock , Ascott-Under-Wychwood , Shipton , Shalford , Chilworth , Gomshall , Dorking West , Betchworth , Dilton Marsh , Dean , Dunbridge , Sea Mills , Shirehampton , Avonmouth , St Andrews Road , Severn Beach , Newton St Cyres , Yeoford , Copplestone , Morchard Road , Lapford , Kings Nympton , Portsmouth Arms , Umberleigh , Chapelton , Luxulyan , Bugle , Roche , St Columb Road , Quintrell Downs , Coombe , St Keyne , Causeland and Sandplace.

Interestingly , the option to close intermediate stations on the Exmouth line was rejected. Also , several service options were considered for Devonport , Dockyard , Keyham , St Budeaux , Saltash , St Germans , Menheniot , Lostwithiel and Hayle (including closure) but Jacobs decided to reject ALL of them.

Where Jacobs recommended closure options for progression or further work , they did so largely when a case could be made on the following grounds :

1) Reduction in costs or subsidy.
2) Improved performance or reduced journey times.

Some believe that the DfT were intent on implementing Beeching 2 but were forced to back down by the adverse public reaction to the original FGW December 2006 Draft Timetable.

If this is the case then they would appear to have failed to inform Network Rail. Have a look at the link below.

And then the quote below :

[quote author=Lee link=topic=434.msg1286#msg1286 date=1156594364]Network Rail believe reducing needless stops will streamline journeys (links below.)

Key quote "For one [station] that is very lightly used, you have to question whether it should stay open. Some could be replaced with stations that are closer to communities and more integrated with buses." - Iain Coucher, Network Rail's deputy chief executive

Here is a link entitled "Stations At Risk."[/quote]

Here is a quote from the Network Rail Business Plan 2006.

"Between Didcot and Oxford the mix of non stop passenger and freight services with local services calling at little used stations reduces the ability to maximise capacity."

Like the SRA before them , Network Rail are concerned that a mix of freight and passenger trains (express , semi - fast and stopping) all travelling at different speeds reduces the opportunity to maximise capacity and improve performance. The Rail Freight Group take the same view regarding capacity (see quote below.)

[quote author=Lee link=topic=421.msg1246#msg1246 date=1156153055]
[quote author=Lee link=topic=421.msg1243#msg1243 date=1156084504]"Freight and passenger services - working in harmony.

Rail freight exists comfortably on the rail network alongside ESSENTIAL passenger services. Many freight trains can run in the evenings, during the middle of the day and at night when passenger demand is lower. Most freight trains run at average speeds which are similar to a semi-fast passenger service so their impact on network capacity is less than fast intercity or slow all-stations trains. Freight trains don

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1740
Written by Lee on Thursday, 26th October 2006

Of course , much of the above post will be denied (or more likely , ignored) by those who decide such matters.

Before you do the same , ask yourself the following questions.

1) Why was the following option included in the draft Jacobs report , but NOT included in the Greater Western Franchise Replacement Outline Business Case Report?

[quote author=Graham Ellis link=topic=519.msg1511#msg1511 date=1159027200]I'm ... amazed ....

Jacobs Consultancy report, dated November 2004, page 34 recommends that trains from Westbury to Swindon at 09:30, 11:30, 13:30 and 18:30, with return trips at 10:35, 12:35, 14:35 and 19:35 be provided IN ADDITION to the peak hour service.

[quote]The MOIRA results indicate an overall revenue gain of

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1741
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Thursday, 26th October 2006

It does, indeed, seem very VERY odd that elsewhere some of the Jacobs cut recommendations have been reversed and yet here one of their very few suggestions for a service improvement has been replaced by a cut.  Are there and other cases at all where they suggested that an existing service could/should be increased and instead it's been slashed?

The whole thing does smell of "ulterior motive".  I also look at the cancellation rates of up to about 40% of the evening peak train from Swindon, and ask "is this a co-incidence".  At the rate it's happening, I don't think that it IS a co-incidence;  just why / what it is I'll leave as an open question, but I personally get another funny smell.

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1746
Written by Lee on Friday, 27th October 2006

[quote author=Graham Ellis link=topic=577.msg1741#msg1741 date=1161885096]It does, indeed, seem very VERY odd that elsewhere some of the Jacobs cut recommendations have been reversed and yet here one of their very few suggestions for a service improvement has been replaced by a cut.

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1751
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Saturday, 28th October 2006

[quote author=Lee link=topic=577.msg1746#msg1746 date=1161956100]
According to the Network Rail Business Plan 2006 , low usage is defined as a station that has 90 or less passengers per day. Based on the latest publicly available ORR figures , Melksham is on 75 passengers per day.

Had the Melksham passenger train service been left unhindered by cancellations , engineering work and proposed drastic service cuts , then I would have expected it to have broken through the "90" barrier by the time the next set of station usage stats are published.

At the average compound growth rate that was acheived for 5 years up to that publiched figure, following years would show 101, 136, 184 and 248 passengers per day. Demographic evidence and other indicators all show that without a major change (such as things you have mentioned) this would have been achieved.

I'm going to add two more hinerances to your list - the lack of reliable information and marketing on the serives so that people can find them in the first place, and the removal of the certain fare options which are driving people away. Remember - these are just major changs and I'm saying nothing about all the golden opportunities pointed out but missed to go for even better growth.

I (think) I hear what you say about Severn Beach; hasn't it ended up with a similar dreadful arrangement to the one it currently has rather than (as Melksham's case) seeing a dramatic cut in existing trains?

Re: New DfT Closure Guidance - 577/1759
Written by Lee on Saturday, 28th October 2006

The Severn Beach Line is currently served by 15 trains each way on Monday - Fridays.

However , there is a catch. See links below.

Although all train services run between Bristol Temple Meads - Avonmouth , only 7 train services each way go on to serve St Andrews Road & Severn Beach.

The remaining 8 train services each way run between Bristol Temple Meads - Avonmouth , where a connection is provided to St Andrews Road & Severn Beach by bus.

Here is the proposed Severn Beach Line timetable from December 2006 (link below.)

You are indeed correct , Graham , in that the number of trains & buses is to stay same. However , the time between the train arriving / departing at Avonmouth and the bus arriving from / departing to Severn Beach is a ridiculously tight 4 minutes.

In addition , the turnaround time of the train at Avonmouth has been cut to 3 minutes.

Reinstating the train service through to Severn Beach would have resolved these issues at a stroke.

One of the major problems with the Severn Beach Line is that the connecting buses keep missing the trains at Avonmouth. As you can see from the post above , this is driving people away from the service and contributing to the decline in passenger numbers. Crucially , this , along with poor general Severn Beach Line reliability , and the associated knock - on effect , is dragging the stations west of Clifton Down below the 90 passengers per day mark. In my view , instead of improving the situation , the December 2006 timetable will make things WORSE.

How is this relevant to Melksham :

1) It is a clear example of how poor reliability and poor organisation can constrain & reduce , and indeed , IS constraining and reducing passenger numbers where they should be growing.

2) The Severn Beach Line is a by - word for rail replacement bus operation.

3) The Avonmouth - Severn Beach section is crucial from a freight perspective , as are some of the lines near it.

4) Land is up for sale at Severn Beach station , and its value is a factor in the new closure guidance.

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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