Save the Melksham Train
Put yourself in their shoes

It's good to be back in England .... even though already frustrated by the "hourly" bus from Heathrow to Chippenham, except that there isn't a service at 08:00 - the very time when interconinental travellers are getting back into the country. And already amused by all the signs at terminal 4 advertising the great non-stop Heathrow express to London' Paddington ... except it also stops on the way at Heathrow Central. Back to the land of doubletalk.

I've been keeping somewhat quiet on one or two developments that were going on around the time I left the country - in the three weeks that's just about concluded now there was one "last" chance to get in some political clout, and indeed I and others were writing to ... all the familiar names.

I was very heartened to see some, somewhat belated in my view, signs of interest from our MP, who you may recall spoke along with all the others on the threatened northern section of Swindon - Southampton at Westminster about a month ago. Plans were afoot for him and the shadow transport secretary to visit Melksham; it was after a similar such visit to Dean / Dunbridge that the southern section was reprieved. Alas, all I have is "holding" emails and I'm fearful that any visit will be too late; I WAS going to write "too little, too late" but, no, I think a visit of this type before the timetables were quite as cast as they propbaly are now might well have been the impetus.

It's very easy to believe "consiparcy theory", but I have no smoking gun I can point you to. The line from Westbury to Chippenham and Swindon is scheduled on various plans for significant growth, and it's shown as a major freight artery. Me thinks that the growth can ONLY come from freight if there's no passenger trains at all from dawn to dusk. And me wonders ... perhaps there's a plan.

Putting myself in other's shoes ....

---OOO---


Let me put myself in the shoes of a passenger train, bus, and freight train operator. A company that's there for its shareholders. If I can run my freight on the rail and make a profit, and offload my train passengers onto a bus, isn't that far more profitable and far less of an organisational job? If I can persuade my potential rail passengers to drive to a nearby railhead and pay just as much as their train fare would be on the "local" train to park there, isn't that more profit? And I still get those passengers into my expresses - more seats filled with little operational extra cost. And the big joke is that the local county council subsidises my bus operation, and that the express rail fares I charge are 3 times the rate per mile I'm capped to on the local service.

Does that sound like an implausible scenario? Let's apply some specifics:

Let me put myself in the shoes of The First group. A company that's there for its shareholders. If I can run my freight on the rail and make a profit, and offload my Westbury - Melksham - Swindon passengers onto the 234 bus, isn't that far more profitable and far less of an organisational job? If I can persuade my potential rail passengers to drive to a Chippenham and pay just as much as their train fare would be on the "local" train to park there, isn't that more profit? And I still get those passengers into my expresses - more seats filled with little operational extra cost. And the big joke is that the Wiltshire County Council subsidises my bus operation, and that the express rail fares I charge are 50p per mile per mile compare to the 16p per mile I'm capped to on the local service.

---OOO---


Let's put myself in the shoes of an elected represnentative. I cover a wide area, and it's NOT a "marginal" - mostly people who are very much of my political view. But there's one small town at the end of my area where my support is, to say the least, patchy. It was added to my consituency at a previous boundary review and really doesn't fit, and at the last election when I visited, I was photographed with my car parked in a disabled bay there. Thank goodness, before the next election that town will go to another constituency again. This town's train service is poor, but its use has grown significantly over the past five years. But it and some other services in my constituency are under threat. I think my best tactic is to deal with the services that will remain in my constituancy first and not let the waters get muddied by my unwanted appendage, but then when my core area is fixed I can give lip service to the other place - damage limitation, and I can plead that it's really not an easy battle, so don't expect too much.

Does that sound like an implausible scenario? Let's apply some specifics:

Let's put myself in the shoes of Michael Ancram. I cover a wide area, and it's NOT a "marginal" - mostly people who are very much Conservatives. But the town of Melksham at the end of my area where my support is, to say the least, patchy. It was added to my consituency at a previous boundary review and really doesn't fit, and at the last election when I visited, I was photographed with my car parked in a disabled bay there. Thank goodness, before the next election Melksham will go to another constituency again. This town's train service is poor, but its use has grown Eight fold over the past five years. But it and also the service to Bedwyn in my constituency are under threat. I think my best tactic is to deal with the Bedwyn that will remain in my constituancy first and not let the waters get muddied by my Melksham, but then when my core area is fixed I can talk in a debate, email that I plan to visit - damage limitation, and I can send emails that that it's really not an easy battle, so don't expect too much.

---OOO---


Let's put myself in the shoes of a central government minister. Although I'm a minister, I'm also an elected representative for my own area, and I'll want to make sure that my own area and those of other members of my party are looked after when I'm making regional decisions. Other areas of the country which routinely elect MPs for other parties can be shortchanged, as there's no point in even trying to buy their votes. But we are taxing them to pay for the rest of us. "Best look after your own", eh?

Does that sound like an implausible scenario? Let's apply some specifics:

Let's put myself in the shoes of Derek Twigg / Douglas Alexander. Although I'm a minister, I'm also an elected representative for Widnes / Paisley, and I'll want to make sure that my own area and those of other members of my party are looked after when I'm making regional decisions . Other areas of the country such as the South West which routinely elect MPs for other parties can be shortchanged - for example by withdrawing services such as Melksham which are more heavily used and growing quicker than my own area's service, as there's no point in even trying to buy their votes. But we are taxing them to pay for the rest of us. "Best look after your own", eh?

---OOO---


Please, I'm NOT saying that these are the exact thoughts / reasons / actions of First, Michael Ancram, Derek Twigg, and Douglas Alexander. But the pieces do seem to fit remarkably well, don't they?


Written 2006-06-01 19:53:29

Available entries ...

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