Save the Melksham Train
Our battle ....

[This is the first of a pair of articles and looks at the Swindon - Melksham - Salisbury - Southampton service. A second article (link) goes on to have a look at implications beyond just "Melksham" and concludes that we're just an early battle in a gathering storm]

When I set up the "Save the Train" website about a year ago, it was in response to a threat under the new Great Western Franchise to withdraw all Swindon to Southampton trains. The threat seemed quite astounding - to cut out a service between two major centres, based on one line slipped into a middle page of a consultation request that ran to nearly 100 pages.

Our company, based here at Melksham in Wiltshire (which is served ONLY be the train under threat) has many customers who use the train - but perhaps our customers are a dying breed of railway users? That turns out, emphaticallly, to NOT be the case. Traffic on the line has risen at a compound rate of 35% per annum for the last five years. In other words, ticket sales have risen from 3,000 to 27,000 per year at Melksham, and the First group (who won the franchise) have told me that there are 109,000 passengers per annum using the train on the section through Melksham.

Melksham, Chippenham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster, Dilton Marsh are all growing dramatically, and no-one has doubted that traffic would continue to grow if the service was retained, nor that it would increase dramatically if it became a regular service every 2 hours - such a service being providable by a single 153 class (single coach) train. Speak to the First managers and they tell me that there's "nothing wrong" with the financial case that I make - that a service of 8 trains a day would indeed be a better economic proposition that the skeleton/remenant service of two trains a day that's proposed in the very early morning (06:20 our of Swindon) and early evening (18:12 out of Swindon).

So why - in spite of vigorous campaigning - are we hitting a brick wall?

Perhaps the reduction of the service to an inappropriate level is just one step that's planned. Perhaps there's a plan somewhere to render the service un-viable before it grows too much, so that it can then be withdrawn when the new service manifestly fails? Perhaps you think I'm being too melodramatic?

Alas, this "background plan" is the one that makes the most sense to explain what's being going on. In the short term, screwing up what service are left is a nonsense. In the long term, with a wish to kill the line, it makes perfect sense.

This hasn't happened just on the Swindon to Southampton service. You'll find that other lines / issues have received similar rough justice. And that there are great inconsistencies in information provided too. I've been told that it costs somewhere from 150,000 to 650,000 pounds to hire a train for a year. I've been told that buses to replace trains are NOT under consideration, but that a bus service to take the place of the removed trains IS (or has been) under consideration.

I don't, in truth, know exactly why there's such a brick wall. Does the Transport Minister's ex live in Melksham and it's a personal feud? Are they looking for some line to make an example of, prefereably where there's no chance of them loosing any seats at the next election? I'm much more inclined to look at the freight possibilities of the line - single track - and the talk of major freight depots at Westbury and perhaps elsewhere in the A350 / A36 corridor. All the major policical parties seem keen on appearing green and supporting schemes such as this one to get freight off the roads. But none seems to be considering the effect on / displacement of existing services on the same railway tracks. The line through Melksham is slated for major growth, and that ain't going to be through a packed passenger train before dawn, is it??

New laws / guidance for railway line / passenger service closure are being proposed at the moment. It will no longer be the minister's decision, but a purely financial one, and it will look at issues such as how much money would be made selling railway land, and how much extra tax would be taken from motorists forced into their cars. There's not a hardship / convenience case, though - in other words, the fact that a 25 minute journey on a train is turned into over an hour by bus, with a change, with issues for those with special needs and people with luggage ... that's NOT taken into account. Oh - and there's a variety of interested parties who can challenge the viability of a line to start the process rolling.

I don't think the new law is being passed as an academic exercise - what would be the point? I think it's being passed to make it easier to close lines that are wanted for freight traffic, withdraw services from smaller stations on busy lines or that run into busy junctions, and replace services that aren't easily paralleled by roads by giving aside vital railway land to the railway lobby.

I'm going to conclude this first part of this article by widening the scope of what I'm saying ... by telling you that it's not JUST Swindon - Melksham - Southampton that's under threat.

[This is the first of a pair of articles and looks at the Swindon - Melksham - Salisbury - Southampton service. A second article (link) goes on to have a look at implications beyond just "Melksham" and concludes that we're just an early battle in a gathering storm]

Written 2006-06-12 05:28:00

Available entries ...

Spring 2009 Campaign update
Preserved Railways - a look forward
Campaign update - news for December 08 / 09 / 10 / 11 ...
One long journey ends and another begins
Road - busy ... railway - no trains, so no users
Population growth, but congested roads
Loss of train - loss of job
Terminal 5 - a portent for the Olympics?
Senseless service - could become sensible
Not a Swiss clock railway this morning
The heart says "public transport", the head forces car
Meeting Season
Milk producers
An unusual journey for me - some observations
Want to comment? You're welcome on the forum
Where has our train gone?
Comparing a different part of the country
Fare Strike Day
On truthfully advertising the case
Another slap in the face from First Great Western
Asda - an opportunity that can be used or squandered
How have trains being doing in the last 48 hours?
Happy Christmas everyone!
Trains to and from Melksham - Timetable from Dec07 to May08
TransWilts trains ceased a year ago. Lets look forward
Santa Claus spotted at Swindon Station
A pile of 160 train tickets for tomorrow
First Great Western's Melksham service branded "a disgrace"
Cancellations, Changes and Crass Christmas
Rail user groups do NOT represent rail users?
Staffing-go-round - but the campaigners carry on
30 late, and a bus not a train ....
Campaigning Mantra - Philosophy behind the case
Commutes are longer, and in the west we may know why
Comparing a Wiltshire town with a Norfolk one
And the week ends with two more cancellations!
Does the new man want to play hard?
A First to Stagecoach comparison
Comment on December timetables
Front page update
Frustrated but not depairing
FSB - North and West Wilts Commitee - Federation of Small Businesses
How to fill platforms, and railway company coffers too!
The Ghost Train, Purton
A Comparison - travel in the USA by train
Weymouth, Poor Provisional, and Sunday
Radio - tomorrow morning?
We have another hill to climb
New faces - mayors and chairs.
Diary notes
News Roundup - a LOT is happening
Update being updated!
A roundup from a MELKSHAM perspective
The way forward - improved service and improved station
An update
Gordon Dodge, Rest in Peace
Helsinki and Heathrow to Melksham - Saturday
Asking for the political and part views
Government pressure to shut up. But let us look forward.
Petition Response - detail, opinion, context
Reply to Petition
What is happening?
Report - Monday night's meeting - press brief
The traveller, not the train!
A fast-moving story?
Passengers or Customers?
Invite letter - 5th March 2007 meeting
Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
End game?
Keeping the diary rolling
Key players
PLEASE LOBBY - First, Dft, County Council, your MP
Welcome to 2007
Christmas, 2006
"Told you so"
New service - first impressions
They're gone ... but ...
Last Week - Press Release
Coming to a course in Melksham
Fading away?
2 weeks to go
Current and future summary
End of term - don't care
Returning from their UK course
Is this fare?
Behind the new timetable
Passenger or lemmings
More cancellations
Taunton meeting
From Ystrad Mynach
Consultant's reports recommended a modest INCREASE
A difficult choice for voters
20% service cut = 40% traffic cut?
If its working well, change it so it doesnt.
Is this train used?
Bus connections to Melksham from Chippenham
A year on - an empty bank holiday
One year on
Has our publicity reached the right people?
Flowers for Melksham. Flowers at Melksham.
A desire for honesty
Open Access case strengthened
Press Release - Open Access operator negotiations
In praise of estate agents
Bad news coming?
Pivotal decison - to grow or to strangle?
Rail future - the First Alternative
Friday, 7th July - Melksham
Visit by Chris Grayling and Michael Ancram
Welcome for Michael Ancram and Chris Grayling
Important but not refreshing meeting
Letter from Derek Twigg
Selling off any possibility of improvement
Internet connection issues
How to catch the 18:48 from Chippenham - the DfT suggests
Political pressure - press release
... is part of a planned war
Lies, damned lies and statistics
Put yourself in their shoes
Home soon.
Carrying fresh air around?
Bus service costs 25 pounds per passenger to run?
Every so often, stop and look
It gets worse
Friday meeting - invite and details
First way to get rid of customers?
RailFuture meeting - some gems
RailFuture meeting today
Diary Date - 12th May
First back down or buses too.
Parliamentary Debate, 25th April
Meeting, 21st - notes
What SWPTUF says
Friday's meeting
Meeting, tonight
Celebrating a closure
Meeting, Friday 21st
Friday, 21st, Trowbridge
Southampton to Westbury RESTORED
Constituency Changes
First - transforming travel
An update - BAD, BAD news for Melksham ...
UPDATE - new timetables
High emotion
Someone can't wait!
Real time train monitoring
The Waiting Game
Service failure looses more customers
Not just the TransWilts and Melksham ...
On supporting other campaigns ...
New pages and information
Ploughing back OUR money, not theirs.
A whole pile of responses
Meetings and Consultation Responses
INPUTS NEEDED by 8th March
Safer current trains - the 06:56, 07:45 and 18:09
Roger Jones answers 5 months later!
A week is a long time
Three and a half answers out of 4
Draft timetables (continued)
Background and opinion
On the 05:52 this morning
Out with the old users, in with the new
Draft Timetable is here
Today or tomorrow
Meeting with a local MP
Waiting, with baited breath
Timetable consultation coming up
From my postbag ...
Recent Correspondence
Keep watching - coming to the boil!
Further threats
Current status ...
Were they purchasing votes?
Repeat - PLEASE write in with your aspirations
First want to hear your aspirations
Winners and losers in the Devizes constituency
Railway statistics and Melksham comparisons - how do we stand?
What does First pay the government for Greater Western?
Wilts County Council could save the Melksham / Transwilts train
Reply from MD of First Great Western
The Meeting Season
New Sign
Bustitution - buses for trains on Saturdays and Sundays
New year, 2006
Christmas service - unrequired, or just unprovided?
A comparison across the world
Even new stations don't always survive
No final decision yet
New fares from 2nd January 2006
Every journey has a story
Upside Down
Melksham rail traffic up 33% in 3 months
Should badgers be culled?
Virtually no service - or excellent service. Request the latter.
First specific Melksham rumour ...
First Group - First answer on Melksham
Greater Western Franchise awarded
Train service fading away too?
Santa Claus at Melksham Station
A Quandry
From the rumour mill
Melksham and TransWilts train service - closure by stealth?
At Temple Meads today
Latest official answer
Driving customers away?
Don't drink and drive - drink and train.
Keeping the campaign tail up
STILL worth writing. To MP, To Dft, to bidders.
A bustle before the 17:02
Plus a footnote - Melksham to London
Timetable - Melksham to Reading and London
What does it cost to run a train?
A THOUSAND visitors
Forum Archives available
Busy train at Melksham
Monday morning, Melksham Station
Some scenes at Melksham Station
A disappointing letter
The storm's eye?
Warminster Bus Running Day, 2005
The system is overcomplex - no wonder some odd things happen
A case of the tail wagging the dog??
Kiss and Ride report
Ready for Tuesday
Bump from Glasgow
New stats prove it - the service IS used
Tracking codes for TransWilts stations
Try the train on 18th October
And more train users ...
Six NEW factors why the TransWilts train that serves Melksham should be enhanced and not cut
Tuesday, 18th October - Kiss and Ride day
Quotes from Government
Would this government close a station completely?
An easy timetable - Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon
Didn't you read page 52 of web document?
Core meeting
Regularity, Reliability, Realistic connections
Swindon to Trowbridge
35% Growth in one year - Melksham ticket statistics
Great meeting but just a start.
Old pictures. Not to be repeated event
Don't believe everything you hear
Official (Government) view ... and I agree
Encouraging traffic not just warm words
Meeting, 20th September - getting nervous
Don't let this become history!
Looking slightly wider
The story so far
Welcome to News and Views
Welcome to News and Views

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