|Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
I'm posting up this comparison ... written in answer to an email this morning ... to help people differenetiate between the two groups
"Save the Train" was started around 18 months ago (August 2005) with the main goal of providing an appropriate train service from Swindon to Westbury and beyond after December 2006, when it was threatened with reduction by over 60%, in spite of dramatically growing usage. Although we had the support of hundreds of people who actively signed up, and produced evidence of ongoing growth that would have continued had the service done so, it was cut back last December. Worse than that, the 2 remaining trains are now timed such that they don't appear to meet the most important customer needs. The 06:19 leaves Swindon (largest town in Wiltshire) almost empty for Chippenham (4th largest), Melksham (5th), Trowbridge (3rd), Westbury, Warminster and Salisbury (2nd largest). The 18:42 leaves long after the regular commuters from Swindon to these places have left by other means - primarily by private car. The Train Operating Company hasn't provided me with any information as to the potential market they see for these new timings, but that have pointed to the need to re-use the same train on other lines to provide peak services there.
"More Train, Less Strain" was formed as a response to the December 2006 cuts in frequency and length of train services from Frome, Trowbridge, Bath and intermediate stations into Bristol, and the unreliability of the remaining services. The changes effect a large number of people and the highly publicised "fare strike" organised by the group appeared to win some respite - although it's very much 10 steps backwards and just 1 forward (a few carriages added back in where many were removed) and questions are being asked as to how permanent, or otherwise, the step forward will prove to be.
I am a resident of Melksham, Wiltshire, served ONLY by the Swindon to Westbury service which we have called the "TransWilts"; I host the "Save the Train" website at http://www.savethetrain.org.uk and I started the recent petition to the Prime Minister at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/wessextrains/ which gathered 1690 signatures in 3 weeks, making it number 8 out of 402 petitions on transportation and infrastructure.
The key players in "More Train, Less Strain" are Simon Carpenter of Frome, Tony Ambrose and Peter Andrews. Their web site is at http://www.moretrainlessstrain.co.uk . Since this is a new group that "Save the Train", their web visibility is not as high and searches via Google on their name currently rank "Save the Train" higher.
I've met with Tony and Peter, and we're in agreement that our groups need to liaise (at the least) as we're both looking for appropriate / decent services using the same pool of trains, with the same operator and regulation system involved. However, the distortions of the current timetable mean we have very different situations currently on the ground, with overcrowded peak hour trains on Peter and Tony's line, and no peak trains at all (passengers now on the road) on the TransWilts.
Simon, Tony and Peter are your best contacts for the future direction of "MTLS", but I can tell you something of the future plans for "Save The Train".
At "Save the Train", we are very much in touch with all the key players and looking to work with them to sort out the current situation which, frankly, does no-one any good. It's pretty pointless running an empty pre-dawn train ... which is empty because anyone who wanted to use it for their daily commute wouldn't have an appropriate return service 8 hours or so later. So we're working with First (who have been looking at the possibility of timetabling a round trip every 2 hours), the Department for Transport (from whom I've received an email overnight suggesting we might like to look at a community rail service initiative), our MPs (supporting all along the line - right across Wiltshire), county, district and town councils, other rail user groups, rail trades unions and staff, etc. We could well be at a "cusp" - though it's hard to tell - where we CAN continue the push to an appropriate service and get that running before the end of the year.
Even before I heard from the DfT, I was planning to call a co-ordination meeting in 4 weeks time and invite all the key players to look at the railway service and its provision from the community's viewpoint - to look at not only providing but also sustaining the service henceforth. That meeting is scheduled for 5th March, in Melksham.
The "Save the Train" website has continued to monitor services and developments, and grow. We have had a number of requests for forums in which services on other FGW lines can be discussed by the franchise's customers, and we are now also hosting the http://www.firstgreatwestern.info site for that purpose. There is merit in co-ordination. We are very much aware that the stengthening of one servicve could lead to the reduction or abandonment of another - indeed, the 06:47 Frome to Bristol grew to 4 coaches in a blaze of publicity, in week that the 06:44 from Melksham was cancelled more often than it ran.
Written 2007-02-09 06:50:00
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