Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Passenger Focus - survey - 7939/12832
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Monday, 8th December 2008

Passenger Focus are currently undertaking a survery of Rail Use groups;  I have been working with other members of the team to get a response for them ... here is the text which I am just about to submit.

Dear Kyle,

Please find following my answers to your RUG survey, on behalf of "Save the Train".

You wrote to me originally with regard to my role with the Melksham Railway Development Group (of which I am the vice chairman, contrary to the role you have me listed under), and I have passed that original on to the Secretary, Sion Bretton, who should be in touch under separate cover with an answer from the group.

Although we do still have a (very) sparse train service on the TransWilts line, it's questionable whether "Save the Train" is actually a Rail User Group under your definition. A few of us still use the 07:17 if we can, or the 19:47 (the other one of two daily trains), but many of our members are no longer rail users, as they were disenfranchised exactly 2 years ago this weekend when most of the trains were withdrawn.  Indeed - I would be most grateful if you could look through the response to this survey that I have sent you, and let me know if (in your opinion) we are indeed a Rail User Group, or something else which is beyond the remit of Passenger Focus.

I look forward to hearing


[color=purple]These are answers for and on behalf of SAVE THE TRAIN.[/color]

Bold type - your (Passenger Focus) questions.  Lighter type - our answers

1. How long has your group been established?

Since August 2005 - 3 years and 4 months

2. How often does your group meet?

Irregularly "In real life". But there is an extensive emailing and continuous on line forum running.

3. How is your group funded?

Each member funds his or her own internet activity - and that includes the key members of the group, each of whom gives his / her time for free and also meets any minimal expenses that might arise.

4. How many members do you have?

Just over 500 have signed up to our latest pledge for support on our own web site, and this number could be considered to be the current membership.

5. Does your group have an AGM?


6. Does your group have a newsletter?

In effect, yes; our forum and website is a continually updating newsletter.

7. How is your newsletter distributed
(only to be answered if Q6 is yes)

In effect, on line.

8. Do you have any ongoing projects at the moment?


9. Tell us briefly

We are campaigning for the return of an appropriate train service on the "TransWilts" line - Swindon to Westbury and on to Salisbury, via Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge, Dilton Marsh and Warminster.

The service of 5 trains each way, each day, that was running when the First Group took over the operation on 1st April 2006 was withdrawn the following December and replaced by just 2 trains a day, from Swindon at 6:15 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., which we consider to be inappropriate for the needs of travellers in the area. This view is confirmed by the very poor loading of the new services compared to the old ones, and the number of people who have to make alternative travel arrangements or in some cases have given up their jobs / don't travel at all.

10. What are your group's top 3 priorities?


a) To get an appropriate service on the line.

b) To raise visibilty of the issue of an appropriate service.

c) To encourage all key players (including rail operators, financial interests, regulators and government bodies, Network Rail, passengers and wannabe passengers) to work together with a view to providing an appropriate service.

11. Do you liaise with other groups in your area?


12. Please tell us which groups you liaise with

The following are the main RAILWAY groups (there are numerous others, though!)

First Great Western Coffee Shop
Travel Watch South West
More Train Less Strain

We also liaise with a large number of other groups within our area - ranging from the County Council and the Train Operators through Climate Friendly groups to the local Chambers of Commerce ...

13. Has your group had any previous contact with Passenger Focus?


14. How often do your members log on to the Passenger Focus web site?

We don't know - we have not surveyed our members to ask them this question

15. Does our website give you the information you require

Not all of it

16. What additional Information would you find useful on our web site?

Advice and guidance on setting up a new RUG
Advice and guidance on responding to formal consultations affecting rail passengers
Advice and guidance onundertaking your own research and mystery shoppoing
Copies of our newsletters and reports
Copies of our research findings
Details of current legsislation affecting rail passengers
Contact details and links to major industry organisations, train companies and voluntary organisation support groups

All of the above would be useful resources.


It would be very useful indeed to us if the web site widened its scope to provide for not only rail passengers, but also for people who wish to travel by train but are precluded from doing so by the lack of an appropriate service.

17. If you do not have access to the Internet, do you want hard copies of our reports, researches and newsletters?  If so, please confirm the address you want us to send the information to.

We have access to the Internet. However, a set of hard copies would be useful for us to pass around to those who's access is limited or non-existant.

Graham Ellis,
Save the Train,
404, The Spa,
Wilts, SN12 6QL.

18. Do you have any other comments about Passenger focus and how we can offer greater support to your group.

We have been very disappointed that Passenger Focus (at least in its local representative) appears to offer support only to current users of the rail network, and does not offer any substantive support to those who were disenfranchised by the slashing of services in December 2006.

Listening to Andrew Smith talking at Travel Watch South West recently, it appears that this "current users ONLY" is indeed official policy, with the organisation giving up any support for users for whom such a lousy service is provided that they are forced to use other means of transport.

I understand that Passenger Focus does its surveys on train / at station and draws statistical results from those surveys;  as such, if the organisation is looking to present meaningful data concerning the travel flows along a route, the surveys are seriously flawed in cases such as the TransWilts, where the data collected will only reflect those people for whom a Swindon departure of 06:15 or 18:45 is at least suitable enough for them to use the train, and will exclude the majority of travellers on the route who want to use it at peak travel time (no service), during the day (no service) and in mid and late evening (no service).

Knowing that Passenger Focus is funded by the DfT, the current scenario frankly makes it look like the surveys are more designed to give a positive slant on the data, as they'll only survey people who are content enough to still use the train, than should really be the case.

OK ... you ask about how Passenger Focus could help further.  Perhaps you have a golden opportunity now that you have taken on bus responsibilities too, by amending your remit to look at passenger flows as a whole, irrespective of mode.

In our area ...  The DfT, Wiltshire Council and First Great Western will all confirm that it is absurd, and that an appropriate service is a train every hour or two (views differ slightly), with a train every 3 hours (1 unit) being a sensible stepping stone that we all agree on.

Passenger Focus could be the most enormous help by reaching out to all interested bodies and saying "the current service is absurd - let's fix it" ... and convening a meeting of the real decision makers to actually get the thing squared away for a proper service to run, starting (perhaps) May 2009.  The timetabling / staffing / train sourcing work has already been done ...

Re: Passenger Focus - survey - 7939/12837
Written by Mark A on Friday, 2nd January 2009

Thanks for taking the time to fill in the survey, Graham.

Does anyone recall, at one time, 'Passenger Focus' or its predecessors ran and participated in an online discussion list. They abandoned it, I think at about the time the DfT got involved.

Best wishes


Re: Passenger Focus - survey - 7939/12844
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Friday, 9th January 2009

[quote author=Mark A link=topic=7939.msg12837#msg12837 date=1230921487]
Thanks for taking the time to fill in the survey, Graham.

Does anyone recall, at one time, 'Passenger Focus' or its predecessors ran and participated in an online discussion list. They abandoned it, I think at about the time the DfT got involved.

Best wishes


My pleasure - and it was a welcome opportunity to think about what we're doing and what our direction is. I have not heard back from Kyle as yet (although I did ask him to get back with me in my covering letter), but if I do I'll post any feedback here and also any other feedback I get as a result of the survey.

I don't recall the discussion list - before my time - but I do know that a number of bodies that are (how do I put this?) "more official than us" are REALLY frightened to allow discussions.  Now Passenger Focus is VERY official, so I think they would be VERY REALLY frightened!

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

This site is hosted by Well House Consultants Ltd. (
Contact Information

Further Information:
 Current Summary
 Daily update
 User forum
 Service now
 Service future
 Future Analysis
 Recent Statistics
 Recent letters
 Letter to DfT
 Save the train
 Support us
 Other Maps
 Station facilities
 Station approach
 Trains diverted
 About Melksham
 Site Map
 About this site