|Political pressure - press release
[[To Wiltshire Times - for publication]]
There's still a chance to save the Swindon to Southampton train service!
I've just been told that Shadow Transport spokesman Chris Grayling, and local MP Michael Ancram will be visiting MELKSHAM STATION on 7th July as the culmination of a last minute campaign to save the Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury - Salisbury - Southampton train service.
Ticket sales at Melksham rose from 3,000 per annum five years ago to 27,000 the year before last, before falling back slightly last year - a year when the service was shut down completley on most weekends due to engineering works, and in which the service was fearsomely unreliable. Annual passenger journeys on the line to and through Melksham are now around 110,000. The alternative A350 road is notoriously overcrowded, with bottlenecks at Westbury, Beanacre and around Chippenham.
In spite of the rapid growth, all existing services were slated for withdrawal from December 2006, to be replaced by just a return trip from Swindon to Westbury at 06:20 in the morning, and another return trip at 18:12 in the evening. Service calling at Melksham between 07:30 and 18:30 (currently six trains) are slashed to no trains at all.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Department for Transport has found funding and an extra train to provide a local service from Newton Abbott to Plymouth, serving Totnes and Ivybridge. This service was under similar threat to the 'TransWilts'. Andrew Griffiths, the regional manager for First Great Western who now operate the service, writes:
"Somehow thought this news would be of interest to you. It only goes to show that concerted lobbying can have results.
As to why funding has been found for Ivybridge and not Melksham you will need to ask DfT... No doubt your MP and the media might be interested too. The comparison in footfall for the year 2005/06 shows 48,423 for Ivybridge and 24,417 for Melksham; I will leave you to work out the number of people boarding/alighting per service call but on that measure I guess it shows a greater rate of use for Melksham."
* Visit our web site at http://www.savethetrain.org.uk for an update
* PLEASE lobby your MP, the Department for Transport and Ministers - there's a link on the web site that will be updated this weekend.
* Put the 7th July date in your diary, come along to the station and show your support for the service and your appreciation of the work that Michael and Chris are dooing to help raise the profile of our case.
"Save the Train" is a web site operated by local man Graham Ellis. Graham runs training courses in Melksham, and around 40% of his customers arrive and depart on the trains that are under threat. From trains that were, frankly, very quiet five years ago Graham has watched the service grow so to the extent that there are now between 40 and 50 people on each single coach train, and he's delighted to report that at times he's had to stand ... even at the weekends.
[[Please feel free to email or call for further information and to publish my name and contact details]]
Written 2006-06-15 08:34:55
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