Save the Melksham Train
Archived Save the Train forum articles - 2005 to 2010. See below
Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2768
Written by Writersblock on Friday, 5th January 2007

Not sure this is necessarily the place but as a bit of a train enthusiast in my youth I had a quick look at new FGW timetable (sad I know!). Whilst the level of service looks OK the thing that struck me most was some of the appalling overall journey times now offered from Penzance to Paddington. A good example would be the 07.45 from Penzance (presumably an HST service) which is scheduled to draw into Paddington at 13.42. That's a whopping 5hr 57mins! Back in the day (meaning the 1970s) a Western diesel with a rake of carriages used to do it quicker than that with a stop for 10 minutes at Plymouth to attach a buffet car. Furthermore, whilst there are now nine direct daytime trains, five of them leave before 9am. I really fail to see the point of having one at 05.43 arriving at 11.21 when, if you had something urgent to do in London you would surely get up forty minutes earlier, catch the 05.05 and be in London for 10.01. It's just an anomaly when you see that there is still a yawning four hour gap of direct trains after 10am. Given that a lot of the users will be leisure travellers I think FGW are really barking up the wrong tree with this early morning obsession, but it's all really about stock utilisation.

Must admit I haven't read a lot of material about why this particular timetable is so controversial but it strikes me that there are three overriding issues for the future of the London-Devon/Cornwall line:-
1. What to do about the line at Teignmouth-Dawlish - it can't be left like it is...
2. The bridge at Saltash. What's going to be done? Even Brunel's work won't last forever.
3. Electrification or alternatives. Irrelevant without 1. and 2. being resolved though. 


Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2778
Written by Graz on Saturday, 6th January 2007

Welcome to the board! takes a HST 2 hours to go into Plymouth from Penzance, stopping at all stations west of Par. It then takes another 3 hrs 15 mins approx to go from there to Paddington, not stopping anywhere from Taunton to Reading (add another 20 mins if it does, even longer if it goes via Bristol, a very long 6 hrs 10 mins!). So I think that particular one must stop at most places along the way! I think FGW have, to be honest, spaced out HST services better between Plymouth and Penzance, but as you said wide gaps are still there. Although it could be said at that time of the morning more people may be travelling from Penzance to Plymouth or local cornwall stations rather than Paddington so would find that service more useful.

You might be interested in This article posted by Lee in which he suggests a brand new train operating company dealing with most trains west of Plymouth.

Take a look round the forum at comments made at the new timetable- you won't need to look for too long!

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2798
Written by Writersblock on Sunday, 7th January 2007


Thanks for the cordial greetings to the site in the face of what was, let's face it, pretty much a rant! Had a very quick look at the article you linked to and was interested by it. Was also horrified that one of the first suggestions appeared to be withdrawal of all HSTs west of Plymouth. What I would do with them for the remaining years would be to try to run the things to their capabilities, ie as express passenger trains not stopping at every wayside halt in Devon and Cornwall - it's not what they were designed for. If the following times could be achieved (again) there would be a fighting chance of encouraging business to the west country:  2 hours to Exeter, 3hrs to Plymouth, approx 4hr 45 to Penzance. This can be done - 25 years ago the faster trains were running to those very timings. As for the branch lines they've long struck me as hopeless cases which should be sold off to enthusiasts to run steam on...

I note that you don't comment on my infrastructure remarks at the end. Looking through the article there doesn't appear to be anything on that just about re-alignment of services. Unfortunately, if sometime soon a storm takes out a section of the mainline at Dawlish which is then deemed irreparable due to coastal erosion, that will be the ideal excuse for the corporates concerned to administer the last rites on the problematic railways west of Exeter.

I once met Chris Grayling at the House of Commons and he seems a thoroughly decent and able individual. How effective he would be in office is another matter however, especially given that he bats for very the team that ushered in the whole privatisation/Railtrack debacle in the first place. I remember thinking at the time that if people thought British Rail were bad they had just been presented with a much, much bigger problem.

Don't bother replying and saying I'm living somewhere between the past and utopia because I know I probably am!      ::)


Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2802
Written by Lee on Monday, 8th January 2007

I must admit that when I wrote that particular section of "An Alternative Future" , I probably went on the more radical side to put across the urgent need for change. If you look at my predictions regarding the Cornish Branch lines , for example , I reckon I was pretty much spot on , unfortunately. I have to say that I disagree with your "sell off for steam trains" idea , as I believe that they should retain a "normal" day to day service.

Not being from your area , I dont pretend to have all the answers to your problems (which is why we encourage people like yourself , from across the country , to put forward their views!!) However , you may be interested in the links below.

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2845
Written by Writersblock on Tuesday, 9th January 2007

There's nothing wrong with radical, but the problem is that a plan suggesting removing HSTs to run between, er, Felixstowe and Oxford would never survive the savaging it would inevitably provoke from the local press and MPs. Probably shortsighted I know given that HSTs are thirty years old, but the problem is that nothing better has really been built since. Railways are a touchy subject down there! Furthermore, the notion of putting spare locos and carriages onto the branches with loops provided (would the money really be found for that?) seems far-fetched in the extreme and operationally a return the dark ages. As I said, give them over to enthusiasts with a minimum service requirement in their contracts and let them run steam in summer and keep it going with restored diesels or legacy DMUs all the rest of the time. I'll grant you it may be questionable whether enthusiasts would have the business wherewithal but you can bet they'd bust a gut trying. Also, enthusiasts from all over the country would be flocking down there to travel on them!

You mention 'not being from my area' so I should probably say that my area is in fact Kingston in Surrey. As is usually the case when people start sounding off on the internet I'm not from where you might have thought! I was however born in west Cornwall and spent a good 20 years travelling down there when my parents were alive - hence my unhealthy knowledge of past timetables!   

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2868
Written by Lee on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

I too have an unhealthy knowledge of past timetables! A whole archive full in fact....

You may be interested in an e-mail that I received dated 01/03/2006 (final part removed to protect source) :

Dear Lee

Thanks for responding to my e-mail regarding the possible closure of branch lines in Cornwall.

As you know, there are no proposed closures at present.  I believe what your Group should be doing is to canvass the Government to change the ridiculous way restrictions which were set for all the three companies bidding for the greater Western franchise.  I understand the situation, FGW were prepared to run, for example, more than 8 trains per day as specified by the DfT on the Looe branch but were prevented from doing so because their bid "would not have been compliant".

You will know that there are in fact planned to be  a number of improvements to main line services including more trains calling at Par and Lostwithiel. The main failures of the new timetable from December 2006 are the large reduction in the number of trains serving Ivybridge, Saltash, St Germans and the Looe and Newquay line services.

The number of passengers travelling on the Liskeard - Looe is falling mainly, I believe, because of the good adjacent bus service operated by Western Greyhound. I would suggest that the only way the Looe branch can survive is by making it into a heritage type of operation whilst at the same time providing a community rail service.

The Par to Newquay branch line would also make an excellent heritage line and we are pleased to investigate the possibility of being involved in both the Looe and Newquay lines whilst bearing in mind we cannot get into a loss making situation.

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2877
Written by Writersblock on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

Wasn't from Pete Waterman was it?  ;D Seriously though I think it's just about the only way to go for the branches. Beeching should've done for the lot of them and saved everybody a lot of trouble.

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2878
Written by Lee on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

Nope , nor was it from Kylie or Jason ;D

My point , however , is that your suggestion was being seriously considered LAST YEAR.

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2879
Written by Nick Field on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

[quote author=Writersblock link=topic=989.msg2877#msg2877 date=1168437008]
Seriously though I think it's just about the only way to go for the branches. Beeching should've done for the lot of them and saved everybody a lot of trouble.

I disagree.  Imagine leaving somewhere like Barnstaple (a Strategically Significant Town I believe according to the Regional Spatial Strategy) some 40 miles away from the nearest railway line or station not to metion the rest of North Devon

Re: Penzance-London - where did it all go wrong? - 989/2889
Written by Lee on Wednesday, 10th January 2007

As many of you are no doubt aware , I believe that there is a real risk of closures being proposed in the near future. However , by no means is this view universal , even though some have worries that are very similiar.

[quote author=Lee link=topic=410.msg1547#msg1547 date=1159463498]PLYMOUTH & CORNWALL

Times article "Standing room only on shorter trains" link.,,2-2090057,00.html

Quote from the above article :

" Alistair Darling, the (then) Transport Secretary, admitted that he was partly responsible for the West Country cuts. He said:

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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