Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Corsham - 8106/13134
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Monday, 22nd March 2010

I have been asked how the TransWilts line links to / relates to Corsham - another town in the new Chippenham constituency which has made an excellent case for the re-opening of its station.  Here is my answer - please read it fully.

Firstly, let me state that I know quite a lot about the "TransWilts" line which links Swindon to Westbury and Salisbury via Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge, Dilton Marsh and Warminster ... a little less about ongoing connections to Frome, Yeovil and beyond, and options of going to Radstock ... then less again about Corsham. But I have been asked how train services calling at Corsham might fit in with a TransWilts improvement, so here goes.  If you need more on Corsham, please get in touch - I have a contact or two.

The site of the former Corsham station is on the main London to Bristol line, between Chippenham and Bath; the minimum necessary to reopen a station there is to build a station beside the existing tracks.  However, the only type trains now passing through (excepting a single more local train at about 9 a.m. each day) and expresses between London Paddington and Bristol or stations further west. I understand that it would require their schedules to be considerably eased to add an extra stop on a high speed section, with resulting delay to long distance passengers and at a relatively high operating cost. That's the "official view"; there may be some mileage in considering limited stops ...

The Greater Western Route Utilisation Strategy, published on 1st March this year (2010), considered the case for an hourly local service from Bristol via Bath to Chippenham, doubling up the local service between Bristol and Bath, and providing a new local service on the line on to Chippenham. The GWRUS was based on conservative growth estimates, and rather curiously didn't appear to evaluate elements such as the extra traffic that could/would be generated if/when a station were reopened at Corsham, and on that basis it failed their cost/benefit test.  The option evaluated included considerable expenditure at Chippenham, in order to provide extra capacity there to allow the reversal of a regular service away from the main through lines.

I understand that people who travel from Corsham go to Chippenham and beyond, and also to Bath and beyond, and that with MOD and other employment growing in the area the requirement for travel is growing.  And although I am not all that familiar with Corsham itself, I am certainly familiar with driving / taking the bus into both Chippenham and Bath from the same general direction, and I can confirm that rail station access in the town centre in each case is slow, prone to delay, and congested, with parking limited / full / expensive at or near the stations.

The Greatern Western RUS (with its same conservative calculations) came down in favour of an additional hourly service on the "TransWilts" line, which would joins the line that runs through Corsham on the approaches to Chippenham.  I would like to have seen the case for a Bristol to Swindon hourly local service evaluated, giving a service westward from Swindon every half hour, calling at [new option] Wootton Bassett, Chippenham, Corsham, perhaps [new option] Box or Batheaston Parkway, Bath, and on to Bristol.  That's a bolder project than just Corsham station, but solves a number of other issues too - probably beyond the scope of what I'm looking to answer here.

The option of reversing the TransWilts service at Chippenham, so that from Salisbury and Westbury it serves Trowbridge, Melksham, Chippenham (change for Swindon), Corsham, Bath ... is also out there in left field.  It would link Melksham to Bath and Bristol (an important flow) and Corsham to the rest of Wiltshire. It would almost certainly require that extra platform at Chippenham that swung the benefit / cost analysis against a local Bristol to Chippenham (ignoring Corsham!!) service, but if we were looking at the long term more completely, it should be evaluated.

There is no need for an extra branch line to serve Corsham, though it could be wise to consider loops to allow faster trains to overtake slower ones.  There are options that may be worth future examination in restoring the third side of the triangular junctions near Chippenham (Thingley) and Trowbridge (Bradford Curve) when the lines in the area are next resignalled, but I would be very wary about using them to provide a Bristol suburban circular service via Bradford on Avon, Melksham and Corsham unless that was in addition to services that included links from Melksham and Corsham to Chippenham / Swindon, and from Chippenham and Melksham to the south of the county.

In summary, Corsham is a different but deserving case to the TransWilts; having pointed out the difference, there could be considerable gains made in traffic and useability by interlacing the services should both services be restored.

A complex subject - a long answer. Please read this as a COMPLETE post.  Individual paragraphs are NOT stand alone and must be seen in the context of the article as a whole.

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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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