Save the Melksham Train
One year on

It's a year to the day since this web site was launched ... and in that time we've had Nine thousand, Nine hundred and Thiry six different visitors to this web site. We've been in touch with hundred and hundreds of people - on our forum, by email, by phone, by post and in person. I've spoken on the radio, appeared on TV, received excellent coverage in the local paper. Support has come from all sides of the political spectrum, and from a-political bodies too - from small local setups to national campaign groups, from the left and from the right. The Swindon to Westbury and beyond train service was raised by all 4 MPs along the line at a debate in Westminster, and senior politicians have visited us to add their weight to the campaign. Not bad going for a domain I registered for 2 quid for the year, and only possible because I'm pushing a cause with huge interest and support.

During the year, I've learnt a lot. What is costs to hire a train, how train timetabling works, all the various levels of government. I've learnt how the current franchise and regulation system doesn't work (at least in our case) to the benefit of the community that it's supposed to serve - how vested political interests, shareholder's interests, the interests of a civil service that feels that consultation is an evil necessity, and more, have lead to a system that's far from being a level playing field. Putting it another way, "it stinks".

I've also learnt of a train service that's grown from 3,000 to 27,000 ticket sales per annum to / from Melksham, with passenger numbers on the line (for through journeys) also growing at around the same rate, reaching a high of 109,000 annual journeys. That's broadly compatable with branch lines such as Liskeard to Looe and Plymouth to Gunnislake, which - although slashed - will continue to enjoy a service we would envy after this coming December.

I've met individuals - many individuals - who will be seriously inconveninenced by a withdrawal of the train. People who have no car but will have to buy one. People who cannot drive for medical reasons who's journeys will be extended by an hour on the bus. People with prams and luggage and disabillities who find changing at Bath stressful to put it mildly. Visitors to Melksham who cannot hop off a train onto a bus at Chippenham ... where they could connect into a train.

I've learnt of local transport plans, and seen the regional spatial strategy develop. New housing going in right beside the station at Melksham, growth in Chippenham, in Trowbridge, in Westbury ... and I've read the plans that show the growth will be continuing. I've spoken to people on the train, people on the street, people on line. People who may or may not use the train much now, but who WOULD use it that much more if it was reliable, regular,the station was welcoming, and information was easily available. I have every confidence that the 27,000 ticket sales would continue to grown, compound, 25% per annum for the next 5 years given these conditions.

So why, in the face of overwhelming evidence in favour of the service, are we about to loose the majority of services and have the remaining ones retimed away from when they're needed?

1. The same commercial company runs the buses, the trains that are being cut, and the competing trains via Bath. It's a public transport monopoly, and people have no choice but put up with whatever they're given.

2. The government's railway budget is out of control, and the Department for Transport needs its little victories over minnows such as us in order to save face.

3. There's about a dozen extra freight trains a day planned along the single track line in coming years, (it depends how far you look ahead as to how the numbers rise), and there's not the capacity without signalling improvements. Better kill the service now with 109,000 journeys a year that wait until the freight capacity is required - by that time you may be up to a quarter of a million journeys a year and it would be that much harder to kill.

And so, one year on, we have the absurd situation of a real success story that's going to be killed off in a few months time. The major decision maker - the Department for Transport - continues to stonewall requests to reconsider; in a letter as recently written as last Friday, they tell me that the decison was NOT based only on a single survey that's old and questionable, but they don't go on to tell me what (other) data was used as well. From the tone of the letter, it's clearly still old evidence that the author had in mind; no doubt things like the 3,000 ticket sales the previous time the franchise was awarded.

The Department for Transport does also talk of growth assumptions made by the service specifiers in the early part of last year. Again - no details of what those assumptions were. I wonder ... I was always taught that to assume is to make an ASS out of U and ME. I don't know about me, but they've certainly made an ass out of themselves in my view.

---OOO---


My year's registration of the "savethetrain.org.uk" domain that I bought for 2 quid a year ago ... has been renewed. I'll continue to press the argued case for an appropriate TransWilts train service, and in the short term I consider that a service every 2 hours each way is appropriate. With future growth, "appropriate" may well extend to add in stops at Wootton Bassett, Lacock, Staverton / Holt, White Horse and Wilton. Service may grow to hourly, and be linked at Salisbury into the Waterloo to Salisbury service. It's a strong commercial case, both to ptovide the TransWilts service and to bring some real competition in on routes such as Chippenham to London.

Written 2006-08-14 06:39:54

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?
IMPROVED PUBLIC TRANSPORT LINKS ACROSS WILTSHIRE?
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 ...
Fizzle
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
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
Our battle ....
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
Waverley
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
Update
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.
Meeting!
Old pictures. Not to be repeated event
Don't believe everything you hear
Excursion!
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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