Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Lessons to be learned from bad weather service - 8069/13070
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Saturday, 9th January 2010

The past week, with an utterly altered timetable on the First Great Western netork, really wasn't the time to be "pushing" for better services for the majority of the year.  True, it was pretty inconvenient having our local station which serves a population of 25,000 or so completely shut for 48 hours (an ignomony shared only with Severn Beach, population about 5,000 and St. Andrew's Road) and for us to have to make our own arrangements for visitors (yes, the roads were open. No, a bus / taxi service was not provided) but we always seem to be bottom of the pile ...

But we spotted something very interesting on Thursday evening.  Suddenly, it was possible to re-open the line and run a service that wasn't twice a day, but was every two hours.  And the best reason given for the prolonged closure (points would stick at Trowbridge and Chippenham) suddenly went away when it became operationaly convenient to use the TransWilts due to a lineside incident elsewhere.  Yes, they were switching the points back and forth as trains were running to and from Bath as well.  Odd, that!

What does this tell us, then?  That even at time of foul weather, a timetable with departures from Westbury at 17:30, 19:30 and 21:30, return trains at 18:35, 20:35 and 22:35 is possible  ... extend that for the day and you get Westbury departures at 05:30, 07:30, 09:30, 11:30, 15:30, 17:30, 19:30 and 21:30, with returns from Swindon at 06:35, 08:35, 10:35, 12:35, 14:35, 16:35, 18:35, 20:35 and 22:35.  Now ... that's not ideal (in terms of evening peak); perhaps it would be better to have 05:30, 07:30, 09:30, 11:30 from Westbury, then 14:30, 16:30, 18:30 and 20:30 ... returning at 06:35, 08:35, 10:35, 12:35 then 15:35, 17:35, 19:35 and 21:35.

I'm afraid I get to be a bit of a cynic when told "it's not possible due to iced points" when suddenly it does become possible when it suits the operators. I get to be a bit of a cynic when I'm told that a regular interval service isn't possible, then one is run when it suits the operators.  And I get to be a bit of a cynic when I'm told that 6 minutes isn't long enough to turn a train around at Westbury, and they do it in five when it suits.  Me thinks I may be being fed a negotiating position ... and that the problems are really "virtual" problems which would be magicked away in the event of appropriate financial sponsorship to allow a healthy profit to be made.

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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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