Save the Melksham Train
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Greater Western Route Utilisation Strategy - input from 'Save the train' - 8045/13031
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Thursday, 26th November 2009

The Great Western Route Utilisation strategy is being prepared by Network Rail to help them decide where they should develop / invest over the next 10 years to be able to (continue to) provide sufficient infrastructure to meet the changing / growing needs of the train operating companies, and doing so in an economic way, eliminating pinch points but only providing infrastructure where it will be used.

Many schemes acorss the South West are rule out on cost grounds in the draft RUS, including the doubling to Weston, extra tracks from Bristol Temple Meads to Parkway, and other schemes which were felt to be excellent cases in rail campaigning terms (and common sense).  The TransWilts, however, comes out with an excellent case for enhancements to take an hourly service - agreeing very much with research we have done.

Lee has put together the most thorough case / response from all of the various inputs and documents put his way - I would like to thank him for the following which doesn't do him the justice it should since it's been extracted from a word documents, rather poorly, by yours truely.  Thank you, Lee ... the good work is his, any bad formatting here is mine

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to respond to the Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy Draft for Consultation on behalf of  the TransWilts Save The Train Campaign. We represent passengers on the Salisbury-Westbury-Chippenham-Swindon route, and campaign for better rail services.

Firstly, we would like to congratulate you on the extremely forward-thinking approach that the RUS takes towards improved services on our route. 4 out of the 6 service options assessed meet the BCR funding threshold (page 136), and the Emerging Strategy recommends an hourly Westbury to Chippenham or Swindon service (page 151).

We have gathered a wealth of evidence that backs up your conclusions:

DfT data (11th March 2009 'Delivering a Sustainable Transport System: City and Regional Networks Data Book') :

Page 10 of the link below shows the TransWilts corridor as one of the top 50 commuting trips into and out of Local Authority Districts in the South West.

Page 12 of the link below shows West Wiltshire towards the top in terms of forecast growth in population 2006 to 2026 in the South West (Swindon is right at the very top.)

Page 12 of the link below shows the TransWilts corridor right at the very top in terms of forecast growth in numbers of households 2006 to 2026 in the South West.

Page 12 of the link below shows the TransWilts corridor right at the very top in terms of forecast growth in car ownership 2006 to 2026 in the South West.

Page 21 of the link below shows West Wiltshire towards the top in terms of forecast growth in trips (productions) 2006 to 2026 in the South West (Swindon is right at the very top.) Page 22 of the same link shows the TransWilts corridor right at the very top in terms of forecast growth in trips (attractions) 2006 to 2026 in the South West.

There are also high forecast future delays on relevant sections of the A350 (Page 3 of the link below.)

The above conclusions were verified by George Bright, former principal of Wiltshire College and Chair of the West Wiltshire Economic Partnership, and referred to on Page 25 of his report to the Wiltshire Assembly, entitled "The Impact of the Credit Crunch in Wiltshire" - see

The "TransWilts" corridor is perhaps unique in the South West in that it links up five large urban areas (Swindon, Chippenham, Trowbridge, Warminster and Salisbury) which are designated, or likely to be designated as Strategically Significant Cities and Towns under the Regional Spatial Strategy, with a sixth (Frome) close by. 35,000 extra homes are expected between these towns, equating to a population increase of around 72,000 persons. Another way of looking at it would be in terms of a 50% population increase along the route by 2026.

There is already significant congestion on the A350, which is likely to worsen as the years progress, particularly if (as proposed) HGV's are banned from the centre of Bath and diverted up the A350 instead. The current congestion situation is illustrated in the link below, taken from the DfT's "Towards a Sustainable Transport System: Supporting Economic Growth in a Low Carbon World."

Earlier this year, we launched a campaign inviting people to sign up and pledge their support for an improved TransWilts rail service. So far, 748 people have done so (link below.)

76% of our respondents live in Wiltshire and a further 14% are from nearby counties, indicating an excellent level of support from those within reach of the corridor, and a good indicator of the potential of improved services.

As you may be aware, Wiltshire Council have recently bought land adjacent to Melksham station from BRB (Residuary) , in order to safeguard it for future public transport use. In a recent meeting with DfT, FGW and Wiltshire Council representatives, we put forward our proposals for how this land could be utilised (links to artists impressions are also given):



There now follows an overview of the facilities that will be available, once construction of Phase One is completed:

Approaching Melksham station by road:

Having reached the station approach with relative ease due to the excellent signage on major roads in the Melksham area, the entrance clearly shows where to turn in order to reach Melksham station:

Approaching Melksham station by bicycle/foot from the town centre direction:

Safe route from Melksham town centre to the station ends at a new bicycle shelter, along with new signage indicating the way to the station:

The idea is that cyclists approaching from this direction will park their bikes at the shelter, and then walk down to the station using the pavement. This avoids them having to share the approach road with car traffic.

A deal would be reached with Moorlands Holiday Homes for their CCTV cameras to cover the bicycle shelter, a similar concept to the way Rolls Royce factory cameras cover Patchway station. This would also give Moorlands Holiday Homes an early sense of partnership in a scheme which, when fully complete, would radically alter the landscape in which their business operates:

Station approach road:

A new "Welcome To Melksham Station" information board reinforces the feeling of "arrival", along with the retention of the existing information board on the other side of the road:

Approaching Melksham station by bicycle/foot from the Spencers Gate end:

Footpath/cyclepath opened up from Spencers Gate to station:

With a bicycle shelter having been provided for cyclists approaching from the town centre direction, it is intended that new cycle parking facilities on the platform would mainly be used by cyclists approaching from the Spencers Gate end:

Facilities at the station itself:

- Existing information board retained:

Behind this, the existing bicycle shelter on the platform would be altered. The bicycle hoops would be removed, and a ticket machine placed in the left hand alcove, with a public telephone placed in the right hand alcove:

The photo below shows how the station would look as passengers approach it:

From right to left:

- Verge beyond the barred gate running alongside road that leads to Spencers Gate converted into car parking spaces, with space provided on the inside for the footpath/cyclepath that runs to this point from Spencers Gate. A BR-style station sign is also erected in this area.

- Barred gate opened up as second station entrance, beside which a new ticket machine would be sited.

- Existing station lighting retained.

- Existing car parking converted into bus stop, to be served by terminating Melksham Town Service buses.

- Bicycle lockers and existing blue waiting shelter removed to make way for extended vandal-proof replacement waiting shelter. This would have an opening on both sides, thus allowing it to be used both as a platform waiting shelter and as a bus shelter, maximising space. A further photo showing how this would look on the platform side can be found below:

The above view also shows the floral display, which would be retained as a tribute to Gordon Dodge (link below.)

- Extra bin provided.

- Information screen/automatic announcements installed.

- Existing bin retained.

- Outdoor seating removed, replaced by new cycle parking facilities.

- New information board installed, alongside existing directional signage.

- Help point retained.

- Existing station entrance retained.

A deal would be reached with Melksham Tyre Supplies/MCC for their CCTV cameras to cover the station area, similar to the deal reached with Moorlands Holiday Homes:


There now follows an overview of the facilities that will be available, once construction of Phase Two is completed:

- Modular station building (including ticket office & toilets) at Spencers Gate end, with adjacent gate for when ticket office closed.

In the foreground you have the station building, Spencers Gate entrance, platform canopy which ends with a new information screen, with an improved help point in the background, and a further information screen. This leads round to the beginning of the area covered by Phase One.

Also featured:

- Platform extended to 4-coach length.

- Platform canopy, with inbuilt lighting, CCTV and seating.

- Tactile platform edge for the blind.

- Full wheelchair accessibility.

Melksham station entrance from the road turning:


- Roadside electronic sign saying how long to next train.

- Park+Ride signage.

Novacast & VW Audi :

- Novacast and VW Audi move out of station area.

- Former Longreen shed & Spillers Flour Warehouse dismantled and re-erected at an appropriate heritage facility. Former AL King building demolished.

Land converted into large station car park, covered by new CCTV system for the entire station area.

Access/road from Spencers Gate:

- developed as stated in the link below, with extension of Spencers Gate housing levering in developer contributions.

Through bus services can now more easily call at the station.

The proposals above would include the relocation of any businesses affected, to premises fully suitable to their needs.

We also recognise the need for improved TransWilts services to fit with present and future freight services. Should this become a major issue, we would like to put forward the following infrastructure solutions regarding the single-track Melksham line:

1) New signalling, allowing two trains to travel in the same direction, thus allowing a passenger service to follow a freight train, or vice versa. This would be similar to the successful set-up on the Princes Risborough-Aylesbury line.

2) A signalling plus passing loop solution, as proposed by Freight On Rail (link below.)

3) Full double-tracking, as illustrated in the link below.

The current Electrification proposals may provide an opportunity to implement one of the above, through economies of scale.

We would also , in general operational flexibility terms, recommend looking into the viability of restoring the Bradford Curve, between the Melksham and Trowbridge-Bath lines.

We also note the RUS's recommendation that an additional platform at Westbury station (pages 149 and 151) should be provided, and agree that this should be brought forward if possible.

We would like to ask that the following elements of the RUS be looked at again:

1) The RUS text suggests that Melksham would be the main beneficiary of improved TransWilts services. We believe that the benefits would actually spread far wider than this, and our reasoning can be found in the link below.

This is backed up by the breakdown of where our Pledge Campaign respondents live:

? Melksham Area - 20.5%
? Salisbury Area - 14.2%
? in nearby counties - 13.5%
? Trowbridge Area - 10.7%
? Chippenham Area - 7.4%
? further afield in the UK - 6.8%
? Swindon Area - 6.0%
? Warminster Area - 5.5%
? Westbury Area - 4.4%
? Elsewhere in Wiltshire - 3.5%
? Frome area - 2.9%
? Devizes Area - 2.0%
? Dilton Marsh Area - 1.7%
? Rather not say - 0.7%
? Outside the UK - 0.3%

Also, the recent Electification announcement by the DfT may provide a boost for the case for improved TransWilts services:

Prior to the announcement, it looked like Portsmouth-Cardiff were going to get new 4-coach units from 2011/2012. However it now looks like the current 3-coach 158 units until 2016/2017, and then Thames Turbos (crucially still 3-coach) from then until into the 2020's.


- The current 3-coach units are nearly full on many Portsmouth-Cardiff services between Salisbury-Trowbridge. If they remain 3-coach for the foreseeable future, then a regular TransWilts service would seem the logical choice to relieve the inevitable overcrowding that will occur on the 3-coach Portsmouth-Cardiff trains.

- The current 3-coach units are ALREADY full on many Portsmouth-Cardiff services between Trowbridge-Bath. If they remain 3-coach for the foreseeable future, then a regular TransWilts service would seem the logical choice to take "Bath dogleg" travel to Swindon/Reading/London off the 3-coach Portsmouth-Cardiff trains, thus again relieving the inevitable overcrowding that will occur.

2) We are concerned that the overall RUS growth estimates may be unrealistically low, and as such may leave the railway unable to cope with demand well before the end of CP5. 

3) Figure 6.11 (page 133) appears to show Warminster removed from the standard Portsmouth-Cardiff service pattern. We are unclear as to the reasoning for this.

4) We would like to see the Bristol Temple Meads-Chippenham service options (page 134) re-assessed, taking into account the potential benefits of calling at a new station at Corsham. We believe that this may also improve the overall case for a bay platform at Chippenham, thus also further strengthening the TransWilts service options.

We believe that the RUS response from the Corsham Station Campaign may greatly assist you in this regard.

Finally, we would like to end by taking the opportunity to further commend the hugely positive approach taken by your RUS regarding improved TransWilts services, which gives renewed hope to passengers that we represent. We would greatly appreciate a meeting with one of your representatives at the earliest opportunity, in order to explore how we can best assist you in turning this vision into reality.

Yours Faithfully
Lee Fletcher
TransWilts Save The Train Campaign

Re: Greater Western Route Utilisation Strategy - input from 'Save the train' - 8045/13033
Written by philmcm on Thursday, 26th November 2009

I have to say, this is a breathtaking piece of work. Fabulous stuff - you are to be seriously congratulated, Lee. You can come work for me any time!

Re: Greater Western Route Utilisation Strategy - input from 'Save the train' - 8045/13034
Written by Industry Insider on Friday, 27th November 2009

[quote author=philmcm link=topic=8045.msg13033#msg13033 date=1259270376]
I have to say, this is a breathtaking piece of work. Fabulous stuff - you are to be seriously congratulated, Lee. You can come work for me any time!

Yes indeed. Very well reasoned, collated and argued.

Re: Greater Western Route Utilisation Strategy - input from 'Save the train' - 8045/13039
Written by Graz on Monday, 30th November 2009

A great persuasive, informative article Lee.

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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