|Letter from Derek Twigg
Department for Transport, 20th June 2006
to Michael Ancram QC, MP
Thank you for your letter of 30th May, enclosing correspondence from your constituent Mr Graham Ellis of Well House Consultants, 404 The Spa, Melksham, about the Swindon to Southampton train service.
We did look very carefully at this when we were drawing up the specification for new Greater Western franchise. Mr Ellis reports that trains on the route regularly carry thirty or forty passengers. The findings from our research were that, although the morning peak train to Swindon and the evening return sometimes achieved those sorts of numbers, average loadings were appreciably lower. The highest numbers tend to be found between Chippenham and Swindon in the eastbound direction and, in the mornings, between Trowbridge and Westbury westbound. Alternative services are available on both these sections of route.
Mr Ellis also asks about the timings of the remaining services. I was sorry to hear that the retimed services will be less convenient to him. I hope, though, he will understand that it is not always possible to satisfy all passengers with the train services they would like.
First Great Western have agreed to run the Westbury to Southampton "shuttle" service until December 2007. Mr Ellis suggests that this might be extended to Swindon. He acknowledges that this might need extra rolling stock, however, it is a cost that we could not reasonably justify.
I'm going to comment, and add in some pictures as I do. All these pictures were taken of services which are NOT the commuter train - i.e. of trains that are said to be too little used to justify retention.
I has seen the statistics quoted by the Department for Transport at the time of the original franchise specification, and noted they were taken over a relatively short period (8 days) which he suspects might have included the Easter weekend. As someone with a University Degree which included a major statistics element, I can assure the minister that a sample of this size is insufficient to be statistically significant - he would need the statistics from around 15 to 20 days, chosen at random throughout the year, to be able to read anything into the figuures that could relate to overall usage on a service which may well have a seasonal element.
Fortunatley, other statistics are available. First Great Western quoted a figure of 109,000 journeys for the year up to the franchise specification, and at 64 trains per week, that's an average of 32 passengers per train - very much in line with my observations to Mr Ancram, and (if gathered correctly), statistically significant.
That's not the full story. The line has suffered from numerous cancellations and a great deal of replacement of trains by buses in recent years, so the number of trains that actually carried the 109,000 passengers is somewhat lower that the number I've used ... pushing the average up to perhaps 35.
Me thinks the Minister is trying to blind us with figures!
It appears that Mr Twigg thinks that my quest for retiming the trains is a personal one, telling me I can't have what I want like some spoilt child. In practise, you would be hard pressed to find many of the current users of the trains who welcome the new timings/service. I'm not saying "none", but I know that it would be just a couple of percent.
I have learnt in the past year ... I have learnt that a station that LOOKS quiet can be busy. That train pulling out has 30 people on board. And the 10 who got off just 60 seconds ago have disappeared like water running through a grate towards their homes and work.
Written 2006-06-28 18:38:07
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
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.
News Roundup - a LOT is happening
Update being updated!
A roundup from a MELKSHAM perspective
The way forward - improved service and improved station
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?
IMPROVED PUBLIC TRANSPORT LINKS ACROSS WILTSHIRE?
Invite letter - 5th March 2007 meeting
Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
Keeping the diary rolling
PLEASE LOBBY - First, Dft, County Council, your MP
Welcome to 2007
"Told you so"
New service - first impressions
They're gone ... but ...
Last Week - Press Release
Coming to a course in Melksham
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
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
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
Our battle ....
Lies, damned lies and statistics
Put yourself in their shoes
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
Celebrating a closure
Meeting, Friday 21st
Friday, 21st, Trowbridge
Southampton to Westbury RESTORED
First - transforming travel
An update - BAD, BAD news for Melksham ...
UPDATE - new timetables
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 ...
Keep watching - coming to the boil!
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
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
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
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?
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
Letter to DfT
Save the train
About this site